Chemistry researcher receives NIH grant to continue developing possible Alzheimer's drug
Thursday, May 25, 2017
MANHATTAN — The statistics are sobering: Alzheimer's disease is the sixth leading cause of death in the U.S. More than 5 million Americans are living with Alzheimer's disease; by 2050, this number could reach 16 million, according to the Alzheimer's Association.
Duy Hua, Kansas State University distinguished professor of chemistry, and industry partner AfaSci have received a Phase II Small Business Innovation Research, or SBIR, grant from the National Institutes of Health to continue investigating two leading molecules that show promise as a new weapon against Alzheimer's. Hua and AfaSci have collaborated for several years and previously completed a Phase I study that charted significant progress on the same compound.
The NIH SBIR program funds early stage small businesses that seek to commercialize innovative technologies. Hua's lab will receive $343,000 for two years from the $1.9 million grant. Hua said the molecules, which he initially discovered while looking for drugs to remove the plaque that causes heart disease, performed well in initial in vivo studies. More studies are being performed to advance the drug.
"We were very happy with the results of this novel class of compounds in Phase I, and now we hope to get toxicity data and submit an Investigational New Drug application," Hua said. "If that is approved by the FDA, the drug can move along for a clinical trial. We hope one day people can use it."
Hua said the new drug has demonstrated positive effects in mild cognitive impairment, which is a symptom of early stage Alzheimer's disease. He hopes the drug also can be used to treat later stages of the disease.
"Alzheimer's disease progresses slowly," Hua said. "Our studies have shown that the drugs are tolerable, so we are eager to expand our investigations."
Simon Xie, founder and CEO of AfaSci, said his company is enthusiastic about exploring novel drug discovery through collaborations with Hua and Lee-Way Jin at the University of California, Davis.
"We are taking an innovative approach to tackling the most difficult disease," Xie said. "Not many drugs are available for the treatment of Alzheimer's disease, and we aim to target a multiple neuronal signaling pathway to halt the disease's progress.
"Hua is very responsible and reliable, and is an excellent communicator, and K-State is easy and productive to work with," Xie said.
Bret Ford, associate director of licensing for the KSU Institute of Commercialization, said collaborations like the one between Hua and AfaSci enhance Kansas State University research.
The chemistry department is part of the university's College of Arts and Sciences.