Apr 18, 2016 – Alectos Therapeutics partner Merck, known as MSD outside the U.S. and Canada, today disclosed preclinical data for potential clinical biomarker [18F]-MK-6240, a highly selective and specific tau PET tracer useful as an imaging agent for quantification of neurofibrillary tangles (NFTs).

A pathological hallmark of Alzheimer’s disease, as well as several other neurodegenerative tauopathies, is the accumulation of NFTs made up of aggregated tau protein in the brain. In vivo detection of NFTs using positron emission tomography (PET) imaging represents a unique opportunity to develop a pharmacodynamic tool to accelerate discovery of new disease-modifying therapeutics targeting tau pathology.

“We anticipate that the optimized tau PET tracer MK-6240 will be a valuable tool for the clinical study of tauopathies, and will be extremely useful for targeting tau pathology in patients using OGA inhibitor MK-8719” Ernest McEachern, Ph.D., CEO of Alectos, said. “We look forward to working with Merck to apply this important clinical tool to the development of MK-8719 as a novel disease-modifying therapy for neurodegenerative tauopathies such as Alzheimer’s disease”.

The main focus in recent Alzheimer’s clinical trials has been to use cognitive endpoints to measure the effect of therapeutic agents. This requires studying a large number of subjects over long time periods to detect robust changes in these standardized tests and has resulted in an unsustainable financial burden for evaluation of novel disease modifying therapeutics with limited benefits to patients. Therefore, there is an unmet need for sensitive biomarkers that quantify early pathological changes and correlate closely to clinical phenotypes. Development of an optimal NFT PET tracer as a pharmacodynamic tool for preclinical and clincial research represents a strategic advantage in the development of disease-modifying therapeutics targeting tau pathology.

Source: Walji, A.M. et al. J Med Chem (2016).