The scientist left Stanford to find a new way to treat depression. He just shared an early indication that his approach might work.

Amit Etkin is the founder and CEO of Alto Neuroscience

Dr. Amit Etkin is the founder and CEO of Alto Neuroscience.Upper Neuroscience

  • Alto Neuroscience is focused on developing precision medicine for mental health.

  • On Tuesday, the company announced some promising signs of treatment with ALTO-100.

  • The drug targets the treatment of a subset of depressed patients.

In 2019, Dr. Amit Etkin left Stanford University to seek a new way to treat mental disorders such as depression and post-traumatic stress disorder.

While many treatments for these disorders have been developed to treat broad groups of people, Etkin said he believes there is a more effective way to treat patients. He hopes to develop drugs that will help groups of patients with subtypes of mental disorders.

So in 2019, Etkin founded Alto Neuroscience, a privately held biotech company that uses biological measurements — called biomarkers — to develop drugs for mental illnesses like depression and post-traumatic stress disorder. Biomarkers have recently caught on as a way for companies to develop tailored treatments for depression and other conditions.

“The way we develop drugs, the way we use drugs in the clinic, doesn’t presuppose anything about the patient,” Etkin said.

He said the results of the Alto trials were “the first in a series of studies, in a series of efforts” to change that approach.

On Tuesday, Alto announced that one of its therapies, ALTO-100, showed promising signs that it could help people with major depressive disorder. The results were shared in a press release and came from a mid-phase study that did not compare ALTO-100 to a placebo, so there is still a long way to go.

In the study, Alto divided patients into poor and good cognition groups based on a test developed by the company, Etkin said.

The company theorized that the ALTO-100 would help the cognition-poor group more — and that’s exactly what happened in the trial. These patients saw their depression symptoms improve more than the other group that received the drug.

The study also tested ALTO-100 in people with post-traumatic stress disorder. The company did not make these results available.

Upper Neuroscience

Upper Neuroscience.Upper Neuroscience

Dr Rebecca Strawbridge, a lecturer at the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience at King’s College London, told Insider the results were still uncertain because the study was small and did not include a placebo arm.

She said the study appears to “show encouraging results on progress towards a more personalized approach to treating depression, as people who were marked as more likely to respond responded better to the intervention.”

Alto said it launched the larger ALTO-100 trial this month, which will include a placebo arm. The company plans to announce the results of this study in the first quarter of 2024, meaning that turning ALTO-100 into an approved drug is a matter of years at most.

Etkin said Alto plans to conduct a number of mid-phase trials of various of its drugs in 2024.

“It’s really going to be a year of precise psychiatric readings from us,” he told Insider.

Read the original article in Business Insider

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