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Axovant, a company founded by the 32-year-old Vivek Ramaswamy, just failed a key late-stage trial for its Alzheimer’s drug.
The company was down as much as 75% on Tuesday in premarket trading.
“While we are deeply disappointed by these trial results, we also are saddened for the millions of patients and families impacted by Alzheimer’s disease,” Axovant CEO David Hung said. “However, we believe that the fight against Alzheimer’s and other important areas of unmet need in neurology is too important to be derailed by this setback.”
Nearly all Alzheimer’s drugs fail clinical trials; only four drugs have been approved to treat the symptoms of the disease, which affects more than 5 million Americans. The most recent drug approval happened in 2003.
The hope for Axovant’s drug, called intepirdine, was to combine it with donepezil, an Alzheimer’s drug already in use. Taken together, the two seemed to slow the loss of cognition and allow patients to perform daily tasks more effectively than when donepezil was taken alone.
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The goal of the drug was to treat the symptoms associated with the disease, such as cognition and behavior changes. Intepirdine, as far as researchers know, can’t reverse the effects of Alzheimer’s or cure the disease. More realistically, Hung said in August he was hopeful it might delay the disease’s effects.
Axovant wasn’t the only drug to take this approach: In February, the Danish drugmaker Lundbeck said two of its trials on a similar drug had failed. In 2016, Pfizer shut down its trials on a similar drug as well.
Even though intepirdine failed, Hung still has big plans for Axovant.
The company is also looking at how intepirdine works in people who have Lewy body dementia, a neurodegenerative disease with symptoms similar to those of Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s. In that trial, people received a higher dose of intepirdine. It’s expected to have results by the end of the year. Axovant also has three other drugs, which are earlier in development.