A phatmaceutical company (cue the booing and hissing from Stage Left) is actually engaging in safety testing of a vaccine that would stop the progression of Alzheimer's disease. Breakthrough stuff, and just in time for the current crop of baby-boomers.
A revolutionary drug that stops Alzheimer's disease in its tracks could be available within a few years.
It could prevent people from reaching the devastating final stages of the illness, in which sufferers lose the ability to walk, talk and even swallow, and end up totally dependent on others.
The jab, which is now being tested on patients, could be in widespread use in as little as six years.
Known as CAD106, it is the brainchild of scientists at Zurich-based biotechnology firm Cytos, which is also developing anti-smoking, obesity and flu vaccines.
Cytos chief executive Dr Wolfgang Renner said: "If it could prevent the progression of Alzheimer's, it would be fantastic."
Early tests showed the vaccine is highly effective at breaking up the sticky protein that clogs the brain in Alzheimer's, destroying vital connections between brain cells.
When the jab was given to mice suffering from a disease similar to Alzheimer's, 80 per cent of the patches of amyloid protein were broken up.
The vaccine is now being tried out on 60 elderly Swedish patients in the early and middle stages of Alzheimer's. Half of the men and women are being given the vaccine while half are being given dummy jabs.
Although the year-long trial is designed to show that the treatment is safe, the researchers will also look at its effect on the patients' symptoms.
While the results are not due until early next year, the initial findings are promising. Dr Renner told a Zurich conference earlier this week: "I am glad to report that the vaccine is very well tolerated."
If the trial is successful, larger-scale trials will follow, in which researchers will work out the best dose to give and how often it should be given. The finished product is six to eight years from the market.
The vaccine uses a tiny section of the amyloid protein attached to an empty virus shell to trick the immune system into attacking and breaking up deposits of protein clogging the brain.
Scientists at Cytos, who have sold the rights to the vaccine to Swiss pharmaceutical giant Novartis, say the vaccine is likely to be given to those in the early stages of Alzheimer's, to stop the disease from progressing.
June 19, 2005 - Cytos Biotechnology AG (CYTN) announced that its collaboration partner Novartis Pharma AG has obtained approval from the Swedish health authority to initiate a phase I clinical trial with the Immunodrug candidate CAD106, an immunotherapeutic product for the treatment of Alzheimer disease.