Name: Atuzaginstat
Synonyms: COR388
Therapy Type: Small Molecule (timeline)
Target Type: Other (timeline)
Condition(s): Alzheimer's Disease
U.S. FDA Status: Alzheimer's Disease (Phase 2/3)
Company: Cortexyme, Inc.


This small molecule is an orally available inhibitor of gingipains. This investigational therapy approach grew out of the discovery that gingipains, cysteine proteases of the periodontal pathogen Porphyromonas gingivalis, penetrate gingival tissue and cause inflammation at the site of periodontitis (O'Brien-Simpson et al., 2009). Periodontitis has been linked epidemiologically to cognitive impairment, and P. gingivalis bacterial lipopolysaccharide has been detected in postmortem brain tissue of people with AD (Poole et al., 2013). Oral P. gingivalis has been called a risk factor for Alzheimer's disease (Kanagasingam et al., 2020). 

Cortexyme reported elevated gingipain in brain tissue from people with AD, and a correlation between levels of gingipain and tau proteins in postmortem middle temporal gyrus from AD and healthy control tissue. P. gingivalis DNA was detected in postmortem cortices from people with AD and healthy controls and in CSF of AD patients.

Infection with P. gingivalis was reported to worsen AD pathology and cognitive impairment in AD transgenic mice, and to cause neuroinflammation, memory impairment, neurodegeneration, micro- and astrogliosis, increased brain Aβ and phospho-tau, and neurofibrillary tangles in wild-type C57Bl6 mice (Ishida et al., 2017; Ilievski et al., 2018; Ding et al., 2018). Also in mice, oral P. gingivalis infection led to appearance of bacterial DNA in the brain, increased brain Aβ42 production, neuroinflammation, and hippocampal degeneration. The first three findings were reported to be reduced by atuzaginstat; results for hippocampal cell death were not reported (Jan 2019 news on Dominy et al., 2019). For a review of the preclinical literature, see Costa et al., 2021.

In human neurons grown in culture, P. gingivalis infection led to tau phosphorylation and degradation, synapse loss, and cell death (Haditsch et al., 2020).

P. gingivalis is associated with cardiovascular disease. In rabbits, oral infection was reported to increase arterial plaque and levels of the inflammatory marker CRP. Both were reversed by treatment with COR388 (2020 AAIC abstract).


Two Phase 1 trials of atuzaginstat were completed by June 2019. In a single-dose study of 5 to 250 mg capsules in 34 healthy adults, the compound was safe and well-tolerated. A multiple-dose study assessed safety and tolerability in 24 healthy older adults (mean age of 60 years) and nine with AD (mean age 72). According to a company press release and poster presentation at CTAD 2018, healthy adults received 25, 50, or 100 mg COR388 or placebo every 12 hours for 10 days; AD patients took 50 mg or placebo every 12 hours for 28 days. The pharmacokinetic profiles of COR388 in AD and controls were reported to be similar. All volunteers with AD had P. gingivalis DNA fragments in their CSF at baseline. COR388 caused no serious adverse reactions, and no one withdrew. Gingipains also were reported to degrade ApoE, and 28 days treatment with COR388 was claimed to reduce CSF ApoE fragments (2020 AAIC abstract).

A Phase 2/3 trial (GAIN) evaluating a 48-week course of COR388 in 643 people with mild to moderate AD began in April 2019. Participants take either 40 mg, 80 mg, or placebo twice daily. The primary endpoint was to be ADAS-Cog11 score, but the ADCS-ADL was added later as a co-primary. Further outcomes include CDR-SB, MMSE, NPI, the Winterlight Speech Assessment, MRI brain scans, and change in periodontal disease status. Investigators will assess CSF Aβ and tau, plus P. gingivalis DNA and gingipains in CSF, blood, and saliva, before and after treatment. A dental substudy of 228 participants is assessing effects of COR388 on periodontal disease. This trial involves 93 sites in the U.S. and Europe; top-line data are expected in late 2021. The U.S. sites are offering a 48-week open-label extension.

According to a presentation at the 2020 CTAD, GAIN is fully enrolled. At baseline, more than 80 percent of participants had CSF Aβ and tau levels consistent with amyloid positivity or an AD diagnosis. All had detectable antibodies to P. gingivalis in their blood. In the dental substudy, 90 percent had periodontal disease. In December 2020, an independent data-monitoring committee recommended continuing the trial after a planned futility analysis of 300 patients treated for six months (press release).

In February 2021, the FDA placed a partial clinical hold on GAIN because of liver abnormalities in some participants (press release). Dosing in the open-label extension was stopped, but the placebo-controlled portion of GAIN will continue. Cortex characterized the liver effects as reversible and showing no risk of long-term effects.

For all trials of this compound, see

Last Updated: 25 Feb 2021


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News Citations

  1. An Antimicrobial Approach to Treating Alzheimer’s?

Paper Citations

  1. . Porphyromonas gingivalis RgpA-Kgp proteinase-adhesin complexes penetrate gingival tissue and induce proinflammatory cytokines or apoptosis in a concentration-dependent manner. Infect Immun. 2009 Mar;77(3):1246-61. Epub 2008 Dec 29 PubMed.
  2. . Determining the presence of periodontopathic virulence factors in short-term postmortem Alzheimer's disease brain tissue. J Alzheimers Dis. 2013 Jan 1;36(4):665-77. PubMed.
  3. . Porphyromonas gingivalis is a Strong Risk Factor for Alzheimer's Disease. J Alzheimers Dis Rep. 2020 Dec 14;4(1):501-511. PubMed.
  4. . Periodontitis induced by bacterial infection exacerbates features of Alzheimer's disease in transgenic mice. NPJ Aging Mech Dis. 2017;3:15. Epub 2017 Nov 6 PubMed.
  5. . Chronic oral application of a periodontal pathogen results in brain inflammation, neurodegeneration and amyloid beta production in wild type mice. PLoS One. 2018;13(10):e0204941. Epub 2018 Oct 3 PubMed.
  6. . Porphyromonas gingivalis , a periodontitis causing bacterium, induces memory impairment and age-dependent neuroinflammation in mice. Immun Ageing. 2018;15:6. Epub 2018 Jan 30 PubMed.
  7. . Porphyromonas gingivalis in Alzheimer's disease brains: Evidence for disease causation and treatment with small-molecule inhibitors. Sci Adv. 2019 Jan;5(1):eaau3333. Epub 2019 Jan 23 PubMed.
  8. . Relationship of Porphyromonas gingivalis and Alzheimer's disease: a systematic review of pre-clinical studies. Clin Oral Investig. 2021 Mar;25(3):797-806. Epub 2021 Jan 20 PubMed.
  9. . Alzheimer's Disease-Like Neurodegeneration in Porphyromonas gingivalis Infected Neurons with Persistent Expression of Active Gingipains. J Alzheimers Dis. 2020;75(4):1361-1376. PubMed.

External Citations

  1. company press release
  2. CTAD 2018
  3. 2020 AAIC abstract
  4. press release
  5. press release
  7. 2020 AAIC abstract

Further Reading


  1. . Treatment of Porphyromonas gulae infection and downstream pathology in the aged dog by lysine-gingipain inhibitor COR388. Pharmacol Res Perspect. 2020 Feb;8(1):e00562. PubMed.
  2. . Porphyromonas gingivalis and Alzheimer disease: Recent findings and potential therapies. J Periodontol. 2020 Oct;91 Suppl 1:S45-S49. Epub 2020 Aug 6 PubMed.