Pain free? Meet Cassava, the newest Alzheimer’s player on Nasdaq

Pain Therapeutics is burying its name and the world of hurt around its four-time reject opioid, Remoxy, in search of better fortunes in another — but certainly no easier — disease area.

Rebranding itself as Cassava Sciences (complete with a new ticker $SAVA), the company formerly known as $PTIE claims it is now going all in on a new approach to Alzheimer’s disease amid a focus shift from analgesics to treatments for neurodegenerative ailments.

Remi Barbier

Alzheimer’s, of course, has defeated virtually everything thrown at it in the last 10 years, forcing an industry-wide rethink. It is this paradigmatic shift away from the amyloid beta hypothesis that Cassava is banking on: According to the company, its new lead drug, PTI-125, is designed not to clear those sticky plaques in the brain but stabilize a critical scaffolding protein by reversing proteopathy. Cassava says that fixing the structure of filamin A (FLNA) can improve neuronal function and reduce neuroinflammation, ultimately improving cognition and slowing disease progression.

The stock gained pennies per share following the announcement, though at $1.2 it’s still a far cry from its last high of $10 in 2018.

Phase IIa results are expected this year as execs plan to spend $5 million to $6 million in cash.

“There’s never been a more exciting time to be in Alzheimer’s research,” president and CEO Remi Barbier said in a recent corporate update with much the same zeal he had in lambasting the FDA’s “shambolic regulations” that led to repeated slapdowns of his pain drug.

He eulogized Remoxy as “an odyssey without a homecoming” and announced the company’s pivot to Alzheimer’s, but not before lashing out one final time on regulators who thought the drug — an extended release gel formulation of oxycodone — can be too easily abused, at a time the deadly opioid crisis has led to calls for heightened vigilance over approval of new pain drugs.

With some grants from the NIH, Cassava says it is also developing a blood test for Alzheimer’s, a risky endeavor that could represent a boon for the failure-prone field if successful.

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Research Scientist - Immunology
Recursion Pharmaceuticals Salt Lake City, UT
Director of Operations
Atlas Venture Cambridge, MA

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