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Lilly acquires Alzheimer’s diagnostics from Siemens

Imaging agents to target tau tangles

Lilly acquires Alzheimer's diagnostics from Siemens

Lilly has acquired two imaging agents to diagnose early-stage Alzheimer's disease from Siemens Medical Solutions USA – the US healthcare arm of technology company Siemens.

Both agents are investigational positron emission tomography (PET) tracers, which are intended to identify 'tangles' of the tau protein in the brain

These tau tangles are thought to block the transport of molecules throughout the cell – leading to neurodegeneration – and alongside amyloid plaque, are one of two known hallmarks for Alzheimer's disease

Pharma interest in tau-targeted medicines has increased recently after several medicines that targeted amyloid failed to achieve significant clinical trial success in delaying the progression of the condition.

A large barrier in developing medicines to target tau is the current lack of approved diagnostics for detecting tau tangles in living patients, however, and the development of imaging technology could provide a marker to determine the success of a treatment.

The PET Tracers could also be of huge benefit in the early identification of patients at risk of developing Alzheimer's disease.

“We are hopeful that this technology will both enhance our understanding of tau and its role in Alzheimer's disease, and contribute to the development of our anti-amyloid and anti-tau based therapies to treat this disease,” said Dr Jan Lundberg, president of Lilly Research Laboratories.

As part of the deal, development of the tracers will be handled by Lilly's molecular imaging-focused subsidiary Avid Radiopharmaceuticals.

Lilly will then have the option to commercialise the tracers once they have been developed.

Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Other companies with an interest in developing tau-targeted products include TauRx Pharmaceuticals, which in November 2012 received $111.8m from Malaysian investment firm Genting Berhard to support a phase III trial programme.

Also, Bristol-Myers Squibb has its investigational compound BMS-241027 in phase I development and Roche is working with AC Immune to develop anti-tau antibodies.

18th April 2013

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