Biogen Idec has caused a stir by saying that it is moving an investigational Alzheimer’s drug into Phase III on the back of promising early-stage data.

The company’s R&D chief Douglas Williams, speaking at the Deutsche Bank BioFEST conference in Boston, said that in an interim analysis of a Phase Ib trial, aducanumab (also known as BIIB037) showed a reduction in the beta-amyloid protein in early-stage patients. By 54 weeks, patients exhibited statistically significant cognitive improvements.

The drug is the cornerstone of an Alzheimer’s alliance signed with Eisai earlier this year. Biogen acquired aducanumab from Neurimmune Therapeutics in 2007.

It is of course early days and the Alzheimer’s field is littered with failed compounds. Biogen has not put any timeline on when the Phase III studies will begin but the data has been seen as a positive development.