With the government promising to spend 1 trillion won ($920 million) budget for dementia, local drugmakers working on dementia treatments are drawing attention.
Dementia treatments need the government’s aggressive support because they are hard to commercialize and only a few products are developed, industry officials say.
The government recently said it would spend 400 billion won for diagnosis and treatment of dementia for the next 10 years, out of the total 1 trillion won R&D for dementia. Biotech firms will find some relief in financial struggles for their R&D expenses that used to depend on private companies solely.
Existing dementia treatments such as Eisai’s Aricept and Novartis’ Exelon tended to alleviate the symptoms of dementia.
However, companies are focusing their R&Ds more on the cure rather than symptom relief. They are also actively conducting studies on new drugs using stem cells and natural substances.
GemVax & KAEL is carrying out phase-2 clinical trials on Alzheimer’s disease treatment GV1001, a new drug candidate based on telomerase-derived peptides.
Chai Biotech is conducting phase 1/2a clinical trials with CB-AC-02, an experimental Alzheimer's disease treatment using placental stem cell.
Nature Cell and Medipost are in phase 1/2a trials on AstroStem and NeuroStem, respectively. These studies involve researching on beta-amyloid protein inhibition through regeneration of neuro-cells. The two are new stem cell-based drug candidates.
In the area of natural products, Dong-A ST, Ildong Pharm, and Daehwa Pharm are at the front.
Dong-A ST signed a licensing deal with NeuroBo Pharmaceuticals to transfer the rights to develop DA-9803, after completing all-stage clinical trials in Korea. Currently, the company is applying for Investigational New Drug (IND) in the United States.
DA-9803 is a composition that contains an extract of Mulberry and Poria cocos peel as an active ingredient for prevention, improvement or treatment of degenerative neurological diseases.
Ildong Pharm’s dementia treatment candidate ID-1201 is also in clinical trials. ID-1201 is a substance composed mainly of Chinese herb Toosendan.
Daehwa Pharm has completed trials in all stages on DHP1401, containing Zizyphus seed that inhibits the formation of beta-amyloid, a dementia-causing substance.
"Dementia is a difficult field for drug development and even global pharmaceutical firms have failed in this area. It is difficult to develop technologies but time and costs are bigger issues," an official in charge of clinical trials at a drugmaker said. "Dementia R&Ds will get lively if the government supports them.”
According to Datamonitor, an international research firm tracking pharmaceutical industries, the global market for dementia treatments is estimated to reach $12.61 billion in 2024.
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