NIH Awards $1.8M to Pain Therapeutics for Work Toward a Diagnostic Blood Test for Alzheimer’s

Ana de Barros, PhD avatar

by Ana de Barros, PhD |

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Pain Therapeutics has received a $1.8 million research grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to support the development of a technology to diagnose Alzheimer’s disease (AD) in early stages based on a simple blood test.

AD is a progressive disorder, meaning it slowly destroys memory and cognitive skills. This damage is known to start a decade or more before problems appear, and during this early stage people seem to be symptom-free although toxic events are taking place in the brain.

Currently, Alzheimer’s can’t be detected until symptoms are evident. But if these disease-causing events could be traced, the disease might be diagnosed much earlier than it is now and treatment initiated, potentially slowing its progression and delaying symptom onset.

“Finding a way to diagnose disease at an early-stage is vitally important,” Remi Barbier, president and chief executive officer of Pain Therapeutics, said in a press release. “A blood test may help detect Alzheimer’s disease before symptoms occur, or rule out other possible causes of memory problems, or might be used as a biomarker to measure the efficacy of drug candidates during clinical trials.”

The potential diagnostic blood-test builds on Pain Therapeutics’ PTI-125, a clinical-stage drug candidate for Alzheimer’s. The investigational therapy’s underlying science has been published in peer-reviewed scientific journals like the Journal of Neuroscience, Neurobiology of Aging and others.

Blood tests that might diagnose AD is currently being explored by researchers worldwide.

A recent study published in the journal PNAS, reported that researchers at the University of Central Lancashire in the U.K. found a new type of analysis that enabled them to identify patients with AD in a group of people with neurodegenerative diseases using only a blood test.

Earlier, a research team at Arizona State University reported verifying a different method to diagnose AD also using a blood test, this one based on tracing white blood cells to distinguish between patients with early AD and Parkinson’s disease, and healthy people. Its findings were also published in Neurobiology of Aging.

“We have an aging population, meaning that the incidence and prevalence of Alzheimer’s is increasing, as is the need for accurate diagnosis. The ability to identify different neurodegenerative diseases through the analysis of blood offers a faster and accurate way of establishing the most effective treatment plan as well as disease monitoring,” Francis Martin, principal study investigator of the University of Central Lancashire study, said in a press announcement at the time.