GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — A local drug developer is one step closer to releasing a potential treatment for a form of autism that could also help those with Alzheimer’s disease.
Grand Rapids-based Tetra Discovery Partners Incorporated is the developer. The company has received clearance from the federal Food and Drug Administration to move on to phase two of testing, which means a clinical trial on humans will start soon.
“We’re hoping that this drug will have significant impact on the quality of patients’ lives,” Tetra Chairman and CEO Mark Gurney said.
The drug is focused to treat Fragile X syndrome, the most common genetic form of autism.
Two of Kathy Proulx’s sons were born with Fragile X syndrome.
“There are some facial features, if you are aware of them — kind of elongated face, kind of larger ears, but my husband’s family has larger ears so we didn’t notice it,” she said.
Her sons, Joseph and Jacob, are now 35 and 40 years old. Cognitively, they are about 5 years old and between 12 and 14 years old socially.
“You start to talk with them and you notice there are some cognitive delays, but they are friendly, outgoing guys and they’ve done really well,” Proulx said.
Gurney, the Tetra CEO, said the drug, BPN14770, has so far been tested only on mice, but it worked. Mice on the drug saw reduced anxiety and improved behavior.
“We’re really excited by that,” Gurney said. “We think we have a very interesting compound that may have an impact on the disease.”
Fragile X syndrome affects only about one in 4,000 or 5,000 males and one in 6,000 or 8,000 females. The BPN14770 trial will start soon on adult males.
Proulx said she would consider the drug for her sons and hesitates only because they are older, so their personalities and routines are already established.
“As a newer family a newer mom or dad, I think we would have been right on board with that,” she said.
If all goes well, the drug could be ready for approval to be sold in 3.5 to four years. It could also treat other forms of autism and even Alzheimer’s disease.
Monday is World Autism Awareness Day, marking the beginning of April as World Autism Month.