In the age of COVID-19, this year’s CTAD was a virtual one. As an FDA advisory committee picked apart aducanumab’s case for approval elsewhere, presentations at CTAD hoisted another therapeutic—BAN2401—into the spotlight. The protofibril-trained antibody continued to beat back amyloid in extension studies, and forged ahead into Phase 3. Also at CTAD, scientists took stock of clinical studies affected by the pandemic, and presented rigorous validations of smartphone-based cognitive tests. As the pandemic rages on, the field is trying to adapt and move forward in evaluating new treatments for AD.
Caught amid COVID-19, the organizers of this meeting decided on March 10, 2020, to switch to a virtual format. It offered prerecorded lectures and e-posters, as well as livestreamed discussions, “Meet-the-Professor” audio chats, and a virtual exhibit hall. New data included widely anticipated results of the DIAN-TU clinical trial of solanezumab and gantenerumab, and of robust phospho-tau plasma tests. The online stream also brought new data on a range of trials against tau, α-synuclein, and other targets in age-related neurodegenerative disease, and on pathogenesis and other topics.
A new meeting in the calendar, Tau2020, covered the biology and pathology of all tauopathies, both primary and secondary. Some of the 650 attendees saw it as an inflection point in tau research, getting researchers to think more broadly and bringing their collective knowledge to bear on a common problem. Highlights included a new staging scheme for tau progression in AD, new ligands for primary tauopathies, cryoEM structures for α-synuclein, and a receptor that facilitates spread of mutant tau in mouse models.
PET imaging is adding a new layer of understanding to scientists’ concept of Alzheimer’s disease pathogenesis and progression. At the 14th Human Amyloid Imaging conference, speakers detailed nuances in the relationship between plaques, tangles, and cognitive decline. They also described nascent efforts to tie pathology in specific brain regions to specific behavioral and cognitive symptoms. While HAI featured new data on the pros and cons of various tau tracers in development, the synaptic tracer UCB-J jumped to the fore. It appears to detect synapse loss throughout AD cortex, as well as in other neurodegenerative diseases such as frontotemporal dementia and progressive supranuclear palsy.