Eli Lilly has spent almost three decades working on drugs for Alzheimer’s disease with not much to show for it yet. This year the company began human tests using a totally new approach. Its latest drug targets an aberrant protein called tau that spreads through the brain as Alzheimer’s progresses, accumulating in telltale tangles that strangle brain cells.
Lilly’s tau drug marks a shift in Alzheimer’s research. Drug companies have long focused on a different protein called amyloid that clumps in the brains of Alzheimer’s patients and is thought to trigger the disease.