China approves seaweed-based Alzheimer's drug. It is the first new one in 17 years

The seaweed-based drug, called Oligomannate, can be used to treat mild to moderate Alzheimer's, according to a statement from China's medical security agency. However, the approval is conditional, and means that, although it can be sold during further clinical trials, it will be strictly monitored and could be withdrawn should security issues arise.

In September, the team behind the new drug, led by Geng Meiyu at the Shanghai Institute of Materia Medica of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, said they were inspired to see seaweed because of the relatively low prevalence of Alzheimer's among people who consume it regularly.

In an article in the journal Cell Research, Geng's team described how a sugar contained in seaweed suppresses certain bacteria in the gut that can cause nerve degeneration and inflammation of the brain, leading to Alzheimer's.
This mechanism was confirmed during a clinical study conducted by Green Valley, a Shanghai-based pharmaceutical company to market the new drug.

Performed on 81[ads1]8 patients, the study found that oligomannate – derived from brown algae – can statistically improve the cognitive function of people with Alzheimer's within just four weeks, according to a Green Valley statement.

"These results advance our understanding of the mechanisms that play a role in Alzheimer's disease and mean that the gut microbiome is a valid target for the development of therapies," neurologist Philip Scheltens, who advises Green Valley and head of the Alzheimer's Center Amsterdam, said in statement.

The company said that Oligomannate will be available in China "very soon", and it is currently seeking approval to market it overseas, with plans to launch third-phase clinical trials in the United States and Europe in early 2020.

Alzheimer's Disease, which starts with memory loss and escalates to severe brain damage, is believed to cause 60% to 70% of cases of dementia reported worldwide, according to the World Health Organization. Dementia affects an estimated 50 million people worldwide, including 9.5 million people in mainland China, Hong Kong and Taiwan.

Named after Alois Alzheimer, the neuropathologist who discovered the disease in 1906, and has so far confused scientists and pharmaceutical companies. [19659008] In October, US pharmaceutical giant Biogen said it would pursue approval by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for an experimental treatment called aducanumab, after announcing in March it was canceling a major clinical trial for the drug.

Johnson & Johnson, Merck, Pfizer and Eli Lilly have previously abandoned projects to develop a drug for Alzheimer's after unsatisfactory clinical data.

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