With years of experience in translational drug development, Johanna Fälting is leading development of new antibodies against Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease. Biomarkers, diagnostics and the blood-brain barrier technology platform are also receiving more attention in pace with the development in the field.
What are you focusing on in the lab just now?
“We are focusing on several different aspects. On the one hand, we are working on identifying and developing new antibodies against Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease. In parallel, we are working further with our technology platform for biomarkers and our technology platform for better passage of antibodies across the blood-brain barrier. At the same time, we are conducting the additional preclinical work required for our drug candidates in the clinical phase.”
What new antibodies are you researching?
“Primarily four new projects against Alzheimer’s disease, all of which have new and unique mechanisms different from one another. We also have exciting projects in neurodegeneration – the breakdown of the nervous system in the brain.” What is the purpose of your biomarker research? “Identifying relevant biomarkers is crucial for several reasons. One of them, of course, is identifying biomarkers that can be used to diagnose Alzheimer’s disease. Since administering them in time will be crucial for future treatments, there is a strong drive for all the players in the field to find the right diagnostic markers. With better biomarkers, it would also be easier to identify the right patients for the clinical studies. But biomarkers are not needed just for diagnostics. We also need to develop biomarkers in parallel with our drug projects in order to monitor what effects our drug candidates have. Showing a clinical effect is not enough for a new drug to be approved as a disease-modifying treatment. We also need to show that the drug has had an effect on the underlying disease, and for that we need biomarkers.”
How is biomarker research developing?
“There is a great deal happening in the field, which will have a tremendous effect going forward. Success in identifying biomarkers that can be measured in the blood would be the most important. Our collaboration with Gothenburg University is of importance. The results from that collaboration could change a great deal in both research and daily clinical work. The biomarkers we are looking at today often require spinal fluid or advanced diagnostic imaging, which is costly for both medical care and research and cumbersome for the patient. If instead we can be satisfied with a simple blood test, we will have gained much.”
What role do you play in the clinical development of antibodies against Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease in collaboration with your partners?
“We often continue with a certain amount of preclinical research even when the drug program has entered the clinical phase. We always want to learn more about the diseases we are working with. New discoveries sometimes emerge in clinical research that we need to understand the background to, and our researchers study those. In pace with the program’s development, gaining an increased understanding of how our drug candidates differ from our competitors’ is a good thing, so that is also part of our research.”
Many companies are developing drugs in the central nervous system. What is remarkable about BioArctic’s research?
“Everything we do is based on the clinical view of the diseases. The explanation is that the company was founded by researchers and physicians who got their original ideas through their clinical work. Classical drug research then steps in, but all the target proteins we are looking at have proved relevant in the clinical view. At BioArctic, we also have the advantage of being a relatively small company with extensive experience of the entire pharmaceuticals chain from idea to market. This provides efficiency in the organization and gives us self-confidence in relation to our partners. We know what they need and also earn a lot of recognition for reliability in our deliveries. There are other, softer aspects as well such as being good at collaborating, which characterizes our work internally as well as our interactions with various universities and partners. We believe in shared goals, clarity and trying to creating a “happy-happy” situation in which everyone gets the most out of the collaboration.”