Tetra Discovery Partners LLC moves into clinical trials early next year, beginning the next leg of a journey to develop a new drug to treat Alzheimer’s disease.
The Phase 1a clinical trial at MPI Research Inc.’s Jasper Clinic in Kalamazoo will involve 48 healthy people to test the ability of the human body to absorb into the blood a compound Tetra Discovery developed, known as BPN 14770.
Costing about $1 million, the phase 1a trial will run about two months and should end in April. Results from Phase 1a will allow the company to set dosages for a follow-up, $2 million Phase 1b trial later in the year involving 72 young and elderly subjects who will receive multiple doses to test the compound’s efficacy in improving their long-term memory and cognitive abilities.
A subsequent Phase 2 clinical trial in patients could begin in 2017, Tetra CEO Mark Gurney said.
“We’re transitioning from a discovery company to a clinical company,” he said.
In pre-clinical testing on animals, Tetra Discovery has shown promise in improving memory and slowing the progression of Alzheimer’s disease.
Founded in 2011, Tetra Discovery operates out of the business incubators GR Current in Grand Rapids and the Southwest Michigan Innovation Center in Kalamazoo. The company is funded by nearly $16 million in grants and contracts with the National Institutes of Health, plus $2 million in private capital from investors that include Grand Angels, Muskegon Angels, Invest Michigan 2.0, the Biosciences Research & Commercialization Center in Kalamazoo, and the Johnson & Johnson Development Corp.
If successful in clinical trials, the company is probably six to seven years away from bringing a new drug to market, likely through a partnership agreement with a pharmaceutical company that would support development and commercialization.
“We’re in active partnership discussions with multiple pharmaceutical companies,” said Gurney, who terms some conversations as “advanced.”
“There’s been very strong interest in BPN14770. It has a unique profile, and there’s a recognition that Alzheimer’s disease is a huge unmet medical need,” he said. “We recognize that for a small company such as Tetra, we need a larger partner at some stage, so it’s better to seek a partner early rather than late.”
The U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that Alzheimer’s affected about 5 million Americans in 2013. As the population ages, the CDC projects the Alzheimer’s incidence rate to grow to nearly 14 million by 2050.