Sanofi CEO rules out committing resources to Alzheimer’s disease drug development: report

Sanofi CEO Chris Viehbacher said the company "definitely" won’t assign major resources to developing drugs for Alzheimer’s disease as currently "it’s hard to come up with meaningful targets," Bloomberg reported Monday. "I think we have to do a lot more basic science work to understand what’s going on," Viehbacher remarked, adding "we really, at best, partially understand the cause of the disease."

Last year, late-stage studies of Eli Lilly's solanezumab and Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson's bapineuzumab failed to meet their main goals in patients with Alzheimer’s disease. Both drugs targeted the build-up of amyloid plaques in the brain, but Viehbacher cautioned that further research needs to be undertaken before moving therapies into Phase III trials. "We start with the premise that what we know isn’t adequate in describing this," he said, adding "unless we’ve got better targets, we’re not really making any progress."

Viehbacher suggested that the recently launched BRAIN Initiative in the US could help in identifying ways to treat Alzheimer’s disease, as could increase collaboration across the industry. If successful, Deutsche Bank analyst Barbara Ryan has estimated that the first Alzheimer’s disease treatments would lead to a market worth $20 billion. As such, a number of companies, including Eli Lilly, Pfizer and Merck & Co., are moving ahead with developing therapies for the disease.

Merck is investigating MK-8931, which also targets the build-up of amyloid plaques, in Phase II studies, with plans to move it into late-stage studies. Meanwhile, Eli Lilly is continuing to study solanezumab and has a further agent in Phase II development.

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