ZURICH, Nov 11 (Reuters) - Roche is testing its "brain shuttle" in humans, with the Swiss drugmaker hoping to rejuvenate the theory that removing amyloid plaques from the brains of patients with Alzheimer's disease will prove effective despite repeated failures.
Azad Bonni, Roche's head of neuroscience translational medicine and rare diseases, said on Monday that Phase I trials have begun with a version of its experimental gantenerumab monoclonal antibody designed to cross the barrier that separates circulating blood from the brain.
Called the brain shuttle, the technology aims to deliver a more-efficient payload than that possible with a systemic medicine, where only a small fraction of the drug may reach the central nervous system.
Roche's work on the brain shuttle began more than a half decade ago, first in mice and finally now in humans.
"This should lead to faster and wider access to the target," Bonni told about 300 investors and analysts during a presentation about Roche's Swiss pRed research group's pipeline.
"We should see faster amyloid beta removal throughout the brain tissue. The unique access to the target is very exciting here."
Many drugs based on clearing amyloid plaques from Alzheimer's patients' brains to slow or halt the fatal form of dementia have failed. However, Roche's continued work with gantenerumab -- as well as Biogen's move last month to resurrect a medicine previously judged to have flopped in two trials -- shows scientists have yet to give up hope. (Reporting by John Miller; Editing by Kirsten Donovan)