Cassava: Experimental Alzheimer’s Drug

Cassava: Experimental Alzheimers Drug

Nicole Basty

In July 2021, the company Cassava released its drug, simufilam, which they claim improves cognitive ability in Alzheimer’s patients. The Austin Texas biotech announced this finding as a breakthrough in Alzheimer’s research which skyrocketed stocks in the company. Cassava claimed the improvement of cognitive scores in the first fifty patients who completed twelve months of treatment. Simufilam is ingested orally and interacts with the misfolded filamin A protein in the body. Potentially alleviating disease symptoms, the drug binds to these proteins in effect to restore its function. 

Alzheimer’s disease affects about six million Americans and is expected to double by 2050. Last summer, Cassava was worth five million due to the rapid urge to find a cure for the disease. 

Due to irregularities in search results regarding Cassava and their Alzheimer studies, the company is currently under fire regarding questionable evidence. Many scientists have questioned the company’s claims as their studies and methods were unclear. Experts claimed no pure evidence of the company’s hypothesis regarding the effect of simufilam on the body. “Cassavas theories are not in the mainstream of the field, and to me, they seem implausible and contrived,” stated Dr. Thomas Südhof, a neuroscientist at Stanford. 

In August of 2021, two scientists filed a citizen’s petition to the FDA regarding Cassava and their studies. The company’s stock dropped about thirty percent. The FDA denied the petition, and stated it did not represent, “a decision by the agency to take or refrain from taking any action.” 

Families of trial participants record improvement in cognition, but scientists noted there was no original placebo group that would reduce bias. Also, it was mentioned that the patients were not followed around by professionals for a quality amount of time to confirm any improvement. Some experts went even further by accusing Cassava of manipulating their scientific results. 

Dr. Roger Nicoll, a neuroscientist at the University of California, affirmed his anger regarding the company funding by taxpayers, “This drug should not be put into patients. It should never have been. Never,” he included. “The longer this goes on, the more outraged I am.” Overall, the company has received more than twenty million dollars from the National Institutes of Health.

The company’s founder, Remi Barbier, claimed that the allegations regarding Cassava were false, and added many articles were published by short sellers attempting to drive their stock price down. “They have gone, and continue to go, to unreal extremes to halt our progress,” Barbier wrote in an email. “The effort to besmirch Cassava Sciences appears endless.”

The mass criticism has majorly dented Cassava’s reputation. The company’s stock is now trading at $25 per share, compared to the $135 last summer. This month, the company only enrolled 60 out of 1,750 patients needed for its Alzheimer’s trial. 

Overall, Cassava’s trial data has caused the mass questioning of professionals who are skeptical of the highly advocated drug. The company has gained a lot of backlash from the media, and will continue until there is a clear view of their search results and intentions.