A Danish pharmaceutical organization, Lundbeck, has broken the blood-brain barrier in mice using shark antibodies. Surprisingly, they say they could use it to treat Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease.
The drugmaker has long focused on treating brain diseases. For example, schizophrenia and depression initiate the work in association with Ossianix. Ossianix is a private US group to which Lundbeck has also paid an unknown amount to develop the treatment.
One of the greatest challenges in neuroscience is figuring out how to allow therapeutic medications to cross the human blood-brain barrier. The barrier is a layer of cells surrounding cerebral blood vessels that shield toxins from the brain. Patients usually take large quantities of medications to allow some molecules to pass through the barrier. However, the drugs can also be given by other means, such as directly injecting it into the brain.
Thursday the companies announced that in lab tests on mice, they found that therapeutic antibodies could connect to the shark-antibodies. The connection acts as a transporter allowing the barrier to be crossed.
Frank Walsh, CEO of Ossianix says human clinical trials will start in two years, and successful treatment should also be available in under ten years. Mr. Walsh adds that they hope their discovery would help to reverse the damage caused by neurological diseases like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s.
Kim Andersen, Lundbeck’s Senior VP and head of research, says the work used 400 million years of nature’s evolution since sharks were the first species to create antibodies.
Shark antibodies are a tenth of the size of a typical antibody. Mr. Walsh compares it to a Trojan horse, that when transplanted to therapeutic antibodies, allows them to cross a once impermeable barrier. In turn, this allows medications to reach the brain in higher concentrations.
Mr. Walsh says the work comes from the setting of a lot of disappointment in the Alzheimer’s field. However, the most recent organization to report false hope on Alzheimer’s treatment was Eli Lilly. In November, they said their experimental medicine Solanezumab failed an extensive clinical trial.
Lundbeck, with revenues of $2 billion in 2015, says the new technology could open the door for many effective treatments for brain diseases, even some that are untreatable. However, they caution that they are in the early phases of research. There is a chance it may not be applicable for human use.