The first part of the BrainGain Sweden Innovation Meeting focused on Alzheimer’s disease. The value of biomarkers for diagnosis and treatment attracted a large audience and led to interesting discussions and new collaborations.
“We use biomarker-based diagnostics to confirm Alzheimer’s,” says Kaj Blennow, professor at the Sahlgrenska Academy, working at the Clinical Neurochemistry department at Sahlgrenska University Hospital Mölndal.
Previously, only a clinical diagnostic was used based on an assessment (after other diseases had been excluded). If the patient had memory interruptions, it was ‘probably Alzheimer’s’. Today, we know that this was not always the case. During the BrainGain meeting, several speakers alluded to the fact that up to 30% of those diagnosed may not have had the disease.
Now, it is possible to prove an Alzheimer’s diagnosis. A significant part of the important biomarker development has taken place in Sweden, and more specifically in West Sweden.
“Today, samples are sent to us for analysis at the Clinical Neurochemistry department even from clinics in the USA and Canada,” says Kaj Blennow. “In recent years, this has spread throughout the world. We are leading the way!”
Kaj Blennow is an expert in Alzheimer’s. In 2017, he received the Nordic Medicine Prize for groundbreaking studies on Alzheimer’s. Biomarkers already play a significant role in pharmaceutical studies. In his lab, Ken and his team run samples to ensure the right patients are included in the drug studies and to evaluate the effect of the drugs. At the moment, only symptomatic treatments are available. In the future, if it also becomes possible to slow down the progression of the disease, disease prevention will be in focus. This is valuable, not least because we are experiencing an ageing population.
The Gothenburg-based company, Alzinova, is developing a vaccine against Alzheimer’s disease which has shown promising results. The company has good collaboration with the Sahlgrenska Academy and the healthcare sector. During the BrainGain meeting, Alzinova’s CEO, Per Wester, and Kaj Blennow have a lot to discuss.
“We are discussing possible new collaborations,” says Per Wester.
For a vaccine to have a real effect, it must target oligomers. “On this basis, our vaccine is 100% specific,” says Per Wester. He believes that many millions of people around the world can be treated in the future. “In this case, we need a treatment that is practical and cost effective,” says Per Wester.
The hope is that Alzinova’s vaccine can be used as an intensive treatment consisting of 4 injections over 4 months, with a follow-up after approximately 1 year.
BrainGain Sweden Innovation Meeting on 6-7 September was jointly arranged by the University of Gothenburg, IRLAB Therapeutics, MedTech West, Sahlgrenska Science Park and Business Region Gothenburg.
Text & Photo: Annika Åkervall