AC Immune begins first trial of a tau-targeting Alzheimer's vaccine

Andrea Pfeifer, CEO of AC Immune

The first clinical trial of an Alzheimer's vaccine ended badly. Elan entered the trial with high hopes but cut the study short after patients suffered inflammation of the brain. And a follow-up showed that while the vaccine cleared amyloid plaques as hoped, it did little to stop neurodegeneration. The outright failure of that trial didn't totally dampen enthusiasm about Alzheimer's vaccines, though.

AC Immune now hopes to succeed where Elan and its partner Wyeth failed. The Switzerland-based biotech has raised $22 million from German billionaire Dietmar Hopp and other backers to advance its Alzheimer's vaccine candidate, ACI-35, into clinical trials. ACI-35 is designed to cause the immune system to produce antibodies against phosphorylated tau proteins, twisted fibers in the brain that are implicated in the development of Alzheimer's.

The Phase I study of ACI-35 is the first time a vaccine against tau has been trialed in humans. Earlier vaccine candidates targeted deposits of amyloid proteins, another potential trigger for Alzheimer's. While the failure of drugs like Johnson & Johnson ($JNJ) and Pfizer's ($PFE) bapineuzumab has dented the theory the deposits cause Alzheimer's, AC Immune is also going after amyloid. Its vaccine targeting amyloid plaques, ACI-24, is currently going through a combined Phase I/IIa clinical trial.

Having vaccines against tau and amyloid--as well as an anti-Abeta antibody Genentech has licensed--gives AC Immune multiple weapons against Alzheimer's. The products could ultimately be used in combination to finally tame Alzheimer's. First, though, AC Immune must generate early-stage data for ACI-35. Having gathered this data, the Lausanne-based biotech will look to partner the asset, FierceBiotech reports, and could also join the initial public offering bandwagon in the future.

- here's the Reuters article
- read FierceBiotech's take

Special Reports: 2012 Fierce 15 - AC Immune | Fierce's 10 top biotech billionaires - Dietmar Hopp

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