Searching For An Alzheimer's Cure

Sep 3, 2015

A Pittsburgh-based company is about to move its Alzheimer’s disease drug out of animal tests and into humans. “It’s exciting and humbling,” said Hank Safferstein Cognition Therapeutics CEO of the upcoming clinical trials.

The South Side company is chasing after a drug that will be effective in combating Alzheimer’s disease.

The process used in finding such a drug is a rare one that focuses on “creating the disease in a dish,” Safferstein said while appearing on WESA’s Essential Pittsburgh.

Once the disease is created, the company applies its large library of chemicals to the drug, measuring the interaction, and going forward from there. According to Safferstein, the company possesses one of the largest chemical libraries in the industry.

“If you’re going to go fishing for big fish, you’re going to need big bait,” Safferstein said.

While his current focus is on Alzheimer’s, Safferstein did his PhD work on Lou Gehrig’s disease, a disease from which Safferstein’s father suffered.

In the past, biotech companies have found it hard to grow in Pittsburgh in part because the venture capital funds were elsewhere and the managers of those funds often want the companies nearby to keep an eye on them. In fact, Safferstein’s last company was based in New York.

However, he said he was able to keep Cognition Therapeutics in Pittsburgh in part because of the large number of neurobiologists in the city, due to its many universities, and the low cost of operating a business. On top of that, the company has gathered its funding from a large network of investors from across the United States and Australia. That large network makes it so that no single investor is able to demand the company move closer to their base of operations.

Safferstein expects to see more of this in the future as biomedical companies become the next major industry in Pittsburgh.

“I’m very optimistic that there’s enough gas in the tank here to get us there,” Safferstein said on the matter.