Researchers at Cognition Therapeutics. Image courtesy of Pittsburgh Innovators Project.

Cognition Therapeutics, a Pittsburgh company that specializes in treating neurocognitive disorders, has taken the next step to developing an innovative new drug for treating Alzheimer’s disease.

The South Side-based company started a new round of clinical testing on CT1812, a drug shown to significantly slow or halt the onset of Alzheimer’s, a degenerative brain disease that leads to memory loss. The new study will see how CT1812 affects other medications being taken by Alzheimer’s patients in the US.

Cognition Therapeutics recently completed an initial round of testing in Australia to see if CT1812 caused any side effects in healthy patients.

“The FDA has reviewed the data from our work in Australia and they’re comfortable that we can begin testing in the US,” says Kenneth Moch, president and CEO of Cognition Therapeutics. He adds that the Australian government gives early-stage companies rebates for testing in the country, which boasts numerous clinical sites devoted to studying Alzheimer’s disease.

So far, the company claims that CT1812 has demonstrated the ability to stop memory loss in multiple Alzheimer’s disease models.

Moch believes CT1812 works more effectively than other treatment methods because it specifically targets beta-amyloid oligomers, the protein that causes Alzheimer’s.

“Other drugs tend to work like mops, in that they’re sopping up any free beta amyloid agents,” says Moch, adding that there are three different forms of beta amyloids. “It’s not totally clear if they’re sopping up the right form.”

The oligomers trigger memory loss, a primary symptom of Alzheimer’s disease, by binding to and changing certain receptors in the synapses of the brain. CT1812 stops the progression of Alzheimer’s by displacing these oligomers from the synapses, he says.

Additional factors that differentiate CT1812 from other Alzheimer’s drugs is that it can be taken orally as opposed to intravenously, and can be better absorbed into the brain.

CT1812 comes at a time when the spread of Alzheimer’s disease has increased in the US. The Alzheimer’s Association estimates that around five million Americans currently live with the disease. It’s also the sixth-leading cause of death in the country, killing more people each year than breast and prostate cancer combined.

Progress on treatment has been slow, as researchers have yet to find an effective way of preventing, curing or even stalling the disease. However, Moch believes CT1812 could change that.

“Current medications take a year or two to see results,” says Moch. “It’s possible our drug could have a faster impact on patients. We’re still trying to figure that out.”

Amanda Waltz

Amanda Waltz is a freelance journalist and film critic whose work has appeared locally in numerous publications. She writes for The Film Stage and is the founder and editor of Steel Cinema, a blog dedicated to covering Pittsburgh film culture. She currently lives in Pittsburgh with her husband and oversized house cat.