Martin Tolar comes from a doctoral family, his grandfather taught at the University Charles and then he was the head of the Zlín hospital. He studied computer science and then medicine in Prague. After graduating, he went to New York for a doctorate and subsequently developed a clinical specialization in neurology in Boston. “I studied Ph.D. on the issue of the main genetic risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease. We later used it as precision medicine, and that allowed us to make our scientific breakthrough in this treatment, ”he explains. He then worked as a neurologist and taught at Yale University, then worked in the management of the pharmaceutical company Pfizer and also as the head of several biotechnology companies.
In 2013, he founded Alzheon, a company dedicated to the development of drugs for Alzheimer’s disease and other neurodegenerative diseases. Among other pharmaceutical companies in the world, the company is currently the closest to the development of a pill against Alzheimer’s disease, which can be used for both treatment and prevention of the disease. “I started Alzheon in our kitchen, it was our fourth company,” says Tolar. “The team I built at the first company in San Francisco has stayed with me for over 10 years. We have about a hundred people around the world who are our closest associates, “he continues.
“The reason the drug for Alzheimer’s has not been effective so far is that no one knew what was causing the disease and what was going on in the brain during it. We helped to discover the key toxin and confirmed its role in the development of Alzheimer’s disease, “explains the doctor. “We also found out how the toxin behaves in different types of patients and how to prevent its formation. That is why we now have a medicine and, in addition, in the form of a pill, which can also prevent disease, “he adds.
He and his colleagues have published many scholarly articles on his scientific research and on the substance and its effects. The advantage, according to Tolar, is that the drug technology is also applicable to other neurodegenerative diseases, such as Parkinson’s disease and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. This would mean hope for patients who cannot be helped by medicine today.
Food and genetics
Lifestyle has a huge impact on the incidence of Alzheimer’s disease. The functioning of the body and the ability to cleanse the brain of toxins depends on how well the blood vessels are, so doctors recommend paying for a healthy diet and lifestyle. According to Tolar, the most suitable is the Mediterranean diet, ie fruits, vegetables, fish, olive oil. It is also important to have enough sleep and exercise.
Genetics also plays a big role. Although the main risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease is aging, a significantly higher risk of the disease exists in people who have one specific gene, APOE4. These people then have a reduced ability to cleanse the brain. “Our brains produce a huge amount of fumes, a kilo and a half a year. When you are older, you are not able to cleanse your brain so effectively, ”describes Tolar. And when the brain is not cleaned, a toxin then accumulates in it, which causes damage.
“Alzheimer’s disease develops for twenty to 25 years without any symptoms. Changes in the brain and loss of brain mass begin in people without risk factors around 40, 50 years of age. It then takes about 20 years for the brain to be damaged to such an extent that clinical signs appear. The older the company, the more significant it is, “notes Tolar.
Great competitive struggle, but without success
How can you tell a person that a disease is coming? “We have imaging techniques where we see the accumulation of a specific toxin and the loss of brain mass long before the onset of clinical symptoms. There are four stages of the disease and this is the first, “says Tolar. “We can also read signals from the blood and cerebrospinal fluid that show the degree of brain damage. We are studying this in a clinical study with our medicine in high-risk patients, which is currently taking place at leading workplaces in the Czech Republic and the Netherlands, ”he adds.
Many large pharmaceutical companies have the ambition to bring a cure for Alzheimer’s disease to humanity. Many of them – Pfizer, Merck, Novartis or Eli Lilly – have not yet succeeded. An estimated $ 600 billion has been invested in research.
“All our opponents are using an infusion form of anti-toxin antibodies. Of the three competitors in the last phase of development, one has not yet worked and two are much less effective and also show significant side effects, “notes Tolar.
To register a drug, it is necessary to go through three clinical phases of drug development, Alzheon is waiting for the last one. “We will start the final study at the beginning of 2021, and people could get the medicine in four years,” says Tolar. “We have data that our drug is able to stop the course of the disease for 1.5 years. The drug supports the brain’s natural defense system, which protects it against the toxin. It increases efficiency about twelve times. We are thus able to prevent both the symptoms of the disease and the loss of brain mass that is associated with the disease, “he describes.
A billion business
The company has already raised more than half a billion dollars in investments. It already has over 200 investors, including several people from the Czech Republic. One of them is the entrepreneur Zbyněk Frolík, the founder of Linet. “When equipping retirement homes with our beds, we see the gigantic problem that Alzheimer’s disease is, both socially and economically,” says Frolík. “The increase in life expectancy and the effects of civilization only exacerbate it. For me, however, the investment was more of a philanthropic matter than a vision of light profit. In addition, I trust Martin Tolar for his very successful career at companies such as Pfizer, “adds Frolík.
According to Tolar, the American company Alzheimer’s disease costs about $ 500 billion a year, including direct and indirect costs. That’s why the US government has also invested in drug development and directly supports the third clinical phase of ALZ-801. Alzheon has offices in Boston, the American Center for Biotechnology, and in San Francisco, the heart of Silicon Valley.
It is estimated that around 150,000 people suffer from Alzheimer’s disease in the Czech Republic, over six million in the USA and more than 35 million in the world. The potential of drugs is in the tens of billions of dollars in sales per year.
The American Alzheon with Czech roots has a breakthrough within reach in the treatment of a problematic disease of civilization. This would be another significant contribution from Czech science and medicine to the world, as well as, for example, the work of Antonín Holý and his team in the treatment of AIDS. After all, Alzheon cooperates with the Institute of Organic Chemistry and Biochemistry of the Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic, which was built by Professor Holý.
Source: E15.cz by www.e15.cz.
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