The discovery of new biomarkers other than amyloid or tau is an optimistic sign for Alzheimer’s drug development, according to an expert on clinical research in the field.

Biomarkers are used as a measurement of disease and have the potential to better define patient populations for Alzheimer’s clinical trials. More studies are now focusing on inflammation, communication between nerve cells, vascular factors, and genetic interventions, for example. In fact, some of these new markers have now been approved for use by the Food and Drug Administration, reported researcher Jeffrey L. Cummings, M.D., a neuroscientist from the University of Nevada Las Vegas.

“The very recent discovery of relevant biomarkers allows us to develop drugs with a precision we’ve never had before,” said Cummings, who led a five-year review of the latest Alzheimer’s treatment research.

When Cummings’ team analyzed experimental Alzheimer’s drugs in 2014, they found a 99% failure rate. Since then, “we have yet to have a successful drug move across the finish line,” he said. 

But the year 2020 has been much more promising, he added.

Currently, there are 121 unique therapies being studied in 136 clinical trials. These ongoing trials include repurposed drugs already approved to treat other conditions. The advantage of these treatments is that they’ve already been vetted, offering major cost savings when compared with new drug development, which can cost up to $400 million for a full program.

With these innovations in clinical trials and treatment targets, there has “never been more promise” in the Alzheimer’s drug development pipeline than there is today, Cummings concluded.

“We are going to solve this problem,” he said. 

The paper, “Alzheimer’s disease drug development pipeline: 2020,” was published in the journal Alzheimer’s & Dementia: Translational Research & Clinical Interventions