FDA Fast Tracks Testing of Drug for Impaired Cognition

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has granted breakthrough therapy designation for Boehringer Ingelheim’s experimental agent for the treatment of cognitive impairment associated with schizophrenia (CIAS).

The drug, known as BI 425809, is a novel glycine transporter-1 inhibitor.

The company announced it will start the CONNEX phase 3 clinical trial program to assess the safety and efficacy of the drug for improving cognition for adults with schizophrenia.

The breakthrough therapy designation and the initiation of phase 3 testing are based on results from a phase 2 clinical trial published in The Lancet Psychiatry in March.

In the phase 2 trial, oral BI 425809, taken once daily, improved cognition after 12 weeks for patients with schizophrenia; doses of 10 mg and 25 mg showed the largest separation from placebo.

Impairment of cognitive function is a major burden for people with schizophrenia, and no pharmacologic treatments are currently approved for CIAS.

“Cognition is a fundamental aspect of everyday life, including problem solving, memory and attention, which is why finding solutions for cognitive impairment is a key area of Boehringer Ingelheim mental health research,” Vikas Mohan Sharma, MS, with Boehringer Ingelheim, said in a news release.

“This breakthrough therapy designation further highlights the urgent need for novel treatments for people living with schizophrenia. By combining traditional treatment approaches with new and innovative technologies, we are developing targeted therapies that will help to ease the burden of mental health conditions and enable people living with these conditions to create more meaningful connections to their lives, loved ones and society,” said Sharma.

The CONNEX clinical trial program is composed of three clinical trials ― CONNEX-1, CONNEX-2, and CONNEX-3. All are phase 3 randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled parallel group trials that will examine the efficacy and safety of BI 425809 taken once daily over a 26-week period for patients with schizophrenia.

The primary outcome measure is change from baseline in overall composite T-score of the Measurement and Treatment Research to Improve Cognition in Schizophrenia consensus cognitive battery.

The CONNEX trial program will use VeraSci’s Pathway electronic clinical outcome assessment platform, including VeraSci’s Virtual Reality Functional Capacity Assessment Tool (VRFCAT), which simulates key instrumental activities of daily living in a realistic interactive virtual environment, VeraSci explains in a news release announcing the partnership with Boehringer Ingelheim.

The VRFCAT is sensitive to functional capacity deficits and has been accepted into the FDA’s Clinical Outcome Assessment Qualification Program.

The CONNEX trials will also utilize speech biomarker technology from Aural Analytics, which will provide a “richer picture of trial participants’ cognition alongside more conventional clinical outcome measures,” Boehringer Ingelheim says.

“Several of the symptoms of schizophrenia are generated by cognitive and emotional processes that can be identified through disruptions in the outward flow of speech. Using innovative speech analytics may help to objectively assess the downstream consequences of these disruptions,” said Daniel Jones, Aural Analytics co-founder and CEO.

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