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NF alum venture Retispec leveraging university of Minnesota tech to detect earlier-stage Alzheimer's

Oct 25, 2018

The University of Minnesota and Toronto-based medical imaging company RetiSpec have announced a collaboration and licensing agreement that will allow RetiSpec further develop its early detection technology for Alzheimer’s disease.

The partnership gives RetiSpec access to an imaging system developed by researchers Robert Vince, Ph.D., Swati More, Ph.D., and James Beach, Ph.D., in the Center for Drug Design (CDD) in the University’s College of Pharmacy and licensed through U of M Technology Commercialization.

RetiSpec will integrate the early detection technology into its own machine learning platform.

This goal of the partnership is to expand RetiSpec’s technological knowledge base and accelerate time-to-market for a commercially viable screening tool for Alzheimer’s. The system scans a patient’s eye to detect small quantities of a protein called beta amyloid before they collect in large enough clusters to form plaques in the brain—a biological sign of Alzheimer’s disease progression.

In the University of Minnesota’s preclinical studies, the technology detected Alzheimer’s disease in mice 25 percent sooner than methods based on visible plaque formation. The University’s collaboration with RetiSpec comes following a successful pilot clinical study demonstrating the capabilities of the technology, involving 31 participants both with and without Alzheimer’s.

“This is the first diagnostic method developed to detect signs of Alzheimer’s well before plaques form in the brain and patients begin to exhibit the outwardly observable symptoms of this devastating disease, such as disorientation and memory loss,” said Vince, CDD director and professor of pharmacy. “We are excited by the potential early detection holds in giving existing treatments the best chance of success and opening the doors to the development of new drug therapies.”

Moving forward, RetiSpec will integrate the early detection technology into its own machine learning platform, allowing it to perform data analysis as it tests the combined technologies in diagnosing Alzheimer’s during an upcoming three-site clinical study.

“The problem is that today we diagnose Alzheimer’s when it is already affecting the way we think and reason, and it is too late,” said Eliav Shaked, founder and CEO of RetiSpec. “The challenge for both drug developers and clinicians is to intervene early enough to matter. The current industry standard, based on detection of cerebral beta amyloid plaque deposits using brain imaging, is both costly and not accessible, so today we practically only go to confirm Alzheimer’s well after symptoms occur. With this new technology, we envision facilitating a noninvasive, simple, and cost-effective screening of Alzheimer’s disease pathology years before the emergence of clinical symptoms.”

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