Opponent: Professor Martin Hallbeck, Institutionen för klinisk och experimentell medicin, Linköpings universitet

Abstract

Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is a very complex disorder and the most common form of dementia. The two pathological hallmarks of AD are extracellular amyloid-β (Aβ plaques in cerebral cortex, and intraneuronal neurofibrillary tangles. In the early stages of the disease it can be difficult to accurately diagnose AD, as it is difficult to distinguish from normal signs of aging. There is thus a need for sensitive non-invasive tools, able to detect pathophysiological biomarker changes. One such approach is molecular imaging of Aβ plaque load in brain, using PET (positron emission tomography) ligands.

We have developed and characterized two novel Aβ plaque neuroimaging PET ligands, AZD2184 and AZD4694. The 2-pyridylbenzothiazole derivate AZD2184, is a 11C-labeled PET ligand with a higher signal-to-background ratio compared to the widely used PET ligand PIB, a 11C-labeled phenylbenzothiazole based tool. This makes it possible to detect smaller changes in Aβ plaque deposition load, and therefore theoretically, also earlier diagnosis. A drawback with 11C-labeled PET ligands is the relatively short half-life. To meet the need for PET ligands with a longer half-life, we developed the pyridylbenzofuran derivate [18F]AZD4694. Although development of fluorinated radioligands is challenging due to the lipophilic nature of aromatic fluorine, we successfully developed a 18F-labeled PET ligand with a signal-to-back-ground ratio matching PIB, the most widely used 11C-labeled PET ligand in clinical use. 3H-labeled derivates of AZD2184, AZD4694, and PIB, showed lower binding specificity towards Aβ plaques containing ApoE. The ApoE genotype per se did not significantly affect ligand binding, instead, the amount of ApoE incorporated to the Aβ plaques appears to be of importance for the binding characteristics of these amyloid PET ligands.

Beta-secretase 1 (BACE1) mediates the first step in the processing of amyloid precursor protein (APP) to Aβ peptides, making BACE1 inhibition an attractive therapeutic target in AD. We developed and characterized three novel BACE1 inhibitors, AZD3839, AZ-4217, and AZD3293. AZD3839 and AZ-4217 contains an amidine group which interacts with the catalytic aspartases Asp-32 and Asp-228 of BACE1, effectively inhibiting the enzyme. All three compounds are potent and selective inhibitors of human BACE1, with in vitro potency demonstrated in several cellular models, including primary cortical neurons. All three compound exhibited dose- and time-dependent lowering of plasma, brain, and cerebrospinal fluid Aβ levels in several species, and two of the compounds (AZD3839 and AZD3293) were progressed into clinical trials.