Eli Lilly and AstraZeneca have received fast track designation from the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for AZD3293, an oral beta secretase cleaving enzyme (BACE) inhibitor for Alzheimer's disease.

AZD3293 is currently in Phase III clinical trials.

The fast track designation programme has been designed to speed up the development and review of new therapies to treat serious conditions.

Eli Lilly vice-president and global development leader for Alzheimer's disease Phyllis Ferrell said: "We are pleased the FDA places a high priority on the development of drugs that target Alzheimer's disease, one of the most critical health issues of our time.

"BACE inhibitors have the potential to transform the treatment of Alzheimer's disease, one of the biggest challenges facing medical science today."

"Most importantly, this is a positive step forward for the millions of patients, families, caregivers, advocates and healthcare providers who fight every day for progress."

Lilly and AstraZeneca are continuing the Amaranth Phase II/III study and have also announced plans to initiate a second phase III trial for AZD3293.

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The Daybreak-ALZ trial will study the safety of inhibitor in people with mild Alzheimer's dementia.

AstraZeneca global medicines development AZD3293 project lead Craig Shering said: "The Fast Track designation in the US for this promising potential therapy reinforces the ambition of the AstraZeneca-Lilly BACE alliance to help advance science for patients and their families managing this devastating illness.

"BACE inhibitors have the potential to transform the treatment of Alzheimer's disease, one of the biggest challenges facing medical science today."

Studies have proved that AZD3293 reduces levels of amyloid beta in the cerebro-spinal fluid of people with Alzheimer's and healthy volunteers.

BACE is an enzyme associated with the development of amyloid beta with an inhibition expected to prevent the formation and build-up of amyloid plaque, and therefore help slow the progression of the disease.

In 2014, AstraZeneca and Lilly formed an alliance for the development and commercialisation of AZD3293.

Under the agreement, Lilly will work with researchers from AstraZeneca's research and development team and lead clinical development, while AstraZeneca will be responsible for manufacturing.