Shanghai Green Valley Pharmaceuticals’ new Alzheimer’s disease drug, Oligomannate, has been conditionally approved in China and became available for purchase in late December. This is the first novel Alzheimer’s disease drug to be approved in almost two decades. While there is global scepticism surrounding the drug’s efficacy, Shanghai Green Valley Pharmaceuticals plans to conduct a multinational clinical trial across North America, Europe, and Asia.

Oligomannate is derived from brown seaweed, and was developed after observations that elderly individuals with high consumption of seaweed demonstrated lower rates of Alzheimer’s disease. Further research published in The Journal Cell Research by scientists at the Shanghai Institute of Materia Medica resulted in the identification of a compound in seaweed that had the ability to reduce both brain inflammation and the buildup of proteins that are harmful to neurons. In Chinese clinical trials, the drug was found to be effective at improving cognitive function in cases of mild to moderate Alzheimer’s disease.

International scientists have considered Oligomannate’s clinical trials to be scant on details. Oligomannate’s efficacy has not yet been compared to that of other Alzheimer’s treatments, and the long-term effects of Oligomannate treatment are currently unknown.

Alzheimer’s disease affects over five million individuals in the US and an estimated ten million individuals in China. Shanghai Green Valley Pharmaceuticals is well-positioned to capitalize on a market with a massive patient pool and little competition, although global clinical trials will be required to prove the utility of Oligomannate as a viable treatment for Alzheimer’s disease beyond China’s borders.