MedCrunch: Hi Eli, Can you tell us a bit about Neurotrack?
Eli Kaplan: Neurotrack is an early diagnostic test for Alzheimer’s which can detect Alzheimer’s 3-4 years before visible symptoms appear. Today, the current standard for diagnosis of Alzheimer’s is only after full blown, what they call “Frank” Alzheimer’s is in existence but that’s years after irreparable damage has already taken place. At this point doctors can’t really intervene medically and treat.
MedCrunch: That’s very fascinating. How does the technology actually work?
Eli Kaplan: It’s a computer based recognition memory test. It tests for impairments that exist in the hippocampus in the brain which is the first structure to be impacted by Alzheimer’s disease. When someone comes into our clinic they are seated in front of a computer that has an infrared eye tracking device imbedded in the monitor. They are told to watch the screen as though they are watching T.V. and nothing more. Two identical images come up and they remain on the screen for a brief period of time. The screen then goes dark for as little as two seconds and as much as two minutes, this varies throughout the test. Next, two more images come up, one of which they just saw on the previous screen and one of which is novel. We continue that sequencing of images for about thirty minutes, all the while this infrared eye tracking device is capturing where they are looking and how much time they are spending looking at the novel image versus the familiar image. Every human being has an instinctive preference for novelty but if your recognition memory is impaired you can no longer detect what is new and what is old. We analyze all of this data and are able to give a diagnosis. We ran a six year long research study and found that of those people who tested below 50 points on our test ( the test is scored 0-100 ), 100% of them reportedly got Alzheimer’s Disease. Of the people who tested above 67 points, none became inflicted by the disease. It is a really powerful technology that will have big implications for pharmaceutical companies and their development of Alzheimer’s medications and eventually as an annual screening tool for Alzheimer ’s disease.
MedCrunch: You are at the stage where you are able to detect Alzheimer ’s disease, or pre Alzheimer’s Disease with this device. What can the patient then actually then do with this information? What are your recommendations for those patients that score below 50 points on your test?
Eli Kaplan: There’s actually a fair amount that you can do. You can say “Well, I don’t want to know that information because there isn’t this ‘silver bullet’ pill that I can take that will halt the disease in its tracks “, but there are a lot of symptom treating drugs. Our neurologists advise that the earlier you start taking these drugs, the more effective they are. Today when someone gets confirmation of the diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease, and they are written a prescription for Aricept or Exelon, it’s really too late for a lot of these drugs to be very effective. It’s our belief and that of our neurologists that the earlier you start these medications, the better off you are. There are lots of things you can do, you can start exercising, do some brain fitness exercises, changes in your diet and nutrition that can have a great impact in terms of delaying symptoms. There are lots of life planning things that become very important with the disease in process.
MedCrunch: Is the very next step to reach out to pharmaceutical companies; is that what you are doing now?
Eli Kaplan: Yes. We are starting to talk to a lot of the big pharmaceuticals to help them populate their clinical trials with people who are pre-symptomatic for the disease. We are told that is a big issue for them in drug development, populating their clinical trials with the right types of people. Today, in current trials as well as past trials up to 80% of the people fall out because for whatever reason. If this happens they are no longer qualified for the trial.
MedCrunch: How was the idea actually conceived? Was it your idea?
Eli Kaplan: It was not my idea but it’s a technology that has really been in the works for twenty plus years, led by a team of neuroscientists that are based at Emory University.
MedCrunch: Wow, that’s very interesting. We are going watch this space. Thank you!