Pre-eminent Team Backs New “Behavioral Biomarker” for Potential Earlier Detection of Alzheimer’s Disease
New Tool for Pharmaceutical Companies to Identify Clinical Trial Subjects
PALO ALTO, CA, September 26, 2013 – Neurotrack, an emerging leader in the development of behavioral biomarkers to assist with the diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease, today announced that it has raised a $2 million Series A led by Founders Fund and joined by The Social+Capital Partnership and several angel investors. The funds will be used to further develop and commercialize the company’s breakthrough technology, a visual cognitive test sensitive to damage in brain regions first impacted by Alzheimer’s disease.
An NIH-sponsored longitudinal study demonstrated that the test may help predict the cognitive decline associated with Alzheimer’s disease three to six years before symptom onset. The computer-based test is objective, non-invasive, and inexpensive and has the potential to offer superior accuracy to existing methods for assisting doctors with predicting cognitive decline.
“Alzheimer’s disease is among the biggest and most intractable health care problems we face,” said Peter Thiel, the well-known entrepreneur and investor – and the founder of Founders Fund. “We need new thinking and new approaches to get around the road blocks that have been holding back the diagnosis and treatment of Alzheimer’s. By bringing disruptive technology to a long-standing medical issue, I believe Neurotrack will be able to make rapid gains in the fight against this disease.”
Today there is no single technology that can provide a definitive pre-symptomatic diagnosis of Alzheimer’s. Despite ongoing efforts by major pharmaceutical companies, there are no highly effective treatments for the disease.
“At Neurotrack, we believe that the emergence of a high-quality, early-stage diagnostic for Alzheimer’s will lead to a long-delayed renaissance in therapeutics for this insidious disease,” said Elli Kaplan, CEO of Neurotrack. “Until now, trials for Alzheimer’s drugs have failed in the absence of a diagnostic test that is able to accurately identify pre-symptomatic Alzheimer’s patients. We believe Neurotrack’s technology has the potential to jumpstart the race for the first effective medications for Alzheimer’s by dramatically reducing the risks and costs involved with clinical trials.”
Neurotrack expects that the initial market for the test will be pharmaceutical companies seeking to identify individuals in the prodromal (early) phase of Alzheimer’s disease for clinical trials of early stage Alzheimer’s therapies.
“Neurotrack has brought together a unique group of scientists, executives and investors – all of whom are committed to finding new ways to defeat this disease,” said Chamath Palihapitiya, founder of The Social+Capital Partnership. “Neurotrack’s first step will be helping pharmaceutical companies more efficiently develop therapeutics that target the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease. Once that need has been met, and the resulting drugs come to market, there will be a vastly greater need for broad scale screening for Alzheimer’s. We believe Neurotrack is well positioned to succeed in both of these markets.”
Today, Alzheimer’s diagnoses do not occur until symptoms become apparent, typically after the disease has been active in the brain, destroying critical memory centers for upwards of twenty years. The current standard for Alzheimer’s diagnosis typically involves a clinical interview, a family history, a battery of standard neuropsychological tests, and sometimes the use of brain imaging and an examination of spinal fluid. Other technologies may be used to either support or partially exclude the diagnosis, but cannot indicate before symptomatic onset whether or not disease will occur and when. Each of the existing diagnostic options has one or more serious drawbacks: low accuracy, invasiveness, high cost or limited predictive utility. In contrast, Neurotrack’s test is completely non-invasive and easily administered and has the potential to be highly accurate, and used prior to symptom onset.
About Alzheimer’s Disease
Currently, 5.4 million people suffer from Alzheimer’s disease in the U.S.; that number is expected to increase to more than 16 million by 2050. Experts estimate that one in three people will have Alzheimer’s disease by age 80, one in two by age 85. Alzheimer’s represents an enormous financial burden to the individual, their caregivers, and the U.S. healthcare system. Total U.S. spending on Alzheimer’s is more than $200 billion annually; this burden will grow to more than $1 trillion by 2050. Alzheimer’s is the third most costly disease behind cancer and heart disease, but unlike those diseases, the path to diagnosis and treatment for Alzheimer’s is far less clear. Based on a recent study by the Milken Institute, early diagnosis and treatment of mental health conditions, including Alzheimer’s disease, could represent as much as a 27% reduction in total economic impact of disease costs.
Founded in 2012, Neurotrack holds an exclusive license for the technology behind its innovative behavioral test from Emory University, following the favorable outcome of an NIH-sponsored longitudinal study. Neurotrack was accepted into Rock Health’s Boston class in the summer of 2012, and won “Best Company” in the SXSW Digital Health competition. The company raised a seed investment round in the spring of 2013. The company raised a $2M Series A later that year from influential Silicon Valley investors, including Peter Thiel, former CEO of PayPal, and Chamath Palihapitiya.
The research and diagnostic tests developed by Neurotrack’s founding scientists received more than $2.3 million in grants and awards from the National Institute of Health (NIH), Emory University Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center (ADRC), the Woodruff Foundation, and the Georgia Research Alliance (GRA). The results of the NIH-sponsored longitudinal study that support Neurotrack’s diagnostic were published earlier this year in the American Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease and Other Dementias (Zola, Manzanares et al., “A Behavioral Task Predicts Conversion to Mild Cognitive Impairment and Alzheimer’s Disease”, 28:2, 2013).
About Founders Fund
Founders Fund is a venture capital firm in San Francisco that provides capital to transformational businesses run by world-class entrepreneurs. Companies the firm has backed include Facebook (managing partner Peter Thiel was Facebook’s first outside backer), SpaceX, Palantir Technologies, Misfit Wearables and Counsyl. The firm, which pursues a founder-friendly investment strategy, is overseen by four partners, each of whom has significant experience as founders of transformational companies and technologies. For more information visit http://www.foundersfund.com
About Social+Capital Partnership
The Social+Capital Partnership (“Social Capital”) is a partnership of philanthropists, technologists and capitalists utilizing venture capital as a force to create value and change on a global scale. The Partnership is based in Palo Alto, California.
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