Australian biotech firm to begin testing Alzheimer's vaccine

Testing is expected to begin soon on a new vaccine developed by Affiris, an Austrian biotechnology firm, to fight Alzheimer's.

Approximately 420 patients will take part in clinical trials in Austria, Croatia, Czech Republic, France, Germany and Slovakia, Affiris said in a statement.

The vaccine, dubbed AD02, developed in conjunction with GlaxoSmithKline, has already been tested for safety and tolerability over the past year. The newly announced clinical trials will now test the vaccine's efficacy. Results are expected as early as 2010.

AD02 works by preventing the build up of beta-amyloid plaques in the brain that cause the degradation of nerve cells and are believed to be crucial in causing Alzheimer's disease.

Affiris' vaccine counters this build up by attacking the plaques by producing more antibodies, Till Jelitto, a spokesman for Affiris, told AFP.

The antibodies, Tillet said, attack only the part of the beta-amyloid protein responsible for the plaques, reducing the risk for patients as the protein also exists in healthy individuals.

Currently, the vaccine is therapeutic, which means it is aimed at treating patients previously affected by the disease. If positive results are found, however,t he vaccine could work as a preventative.

Other Alzheimer's disease vaccines have been tested before AD02, with testing of a 2001 vaccine in the U.S. and Europe cut short after serious side effects were found. Another vaccine was tested in Sweden in 2005.