Nestlé seeks to deploy its diagnostics device for the early detection of Alzheimer's

Tech titans like Google ($GOOG), Samsung and Apple ($AAPL) have clear med tech ambitions. Now a food giant is trying to grab a slice of the pie. The Nestlé Institute of Health Sciences SA (NIHS) seeks to deploy its proprietary diagnostic technology platform to develop an assay for the early detection of Alzheimer's.

The NIHS, Nestlé's fundamental research institute, signed an agreement with French biopharmaceutical player AC Immune SA to develop test for Tau proteins using the food giant's proprietary multiplexed ultrasensitive antibody technology platform.

Nestlé says tangles of Tau proteins in the brain are one of two hallmarks of neurodegeneration, along with beta-amyloid plaques. The company aims to use the proteins as a biomarker for early diagnosis of Alzheimer's.

"This collaboration agreement opens up exciting new possibilities in the quest to better understand and combat this debilitating disease", said Ed Baetge, the head of NIHS in a statement. "By bringing together our ultrasensitive next-generation diagnostic platform and AC Immune's expertise in the field, we hope to develop a minimally invasive Tau diagnostic using patients' blood which can identify Alzheimer's patients at a very early, and potentially pre-symptomatic, stage of the disease."

Nestlé's proprietary diagnostic technology is a triplex antibody microarray-based platform that measures the target protein expression and activation in tissues, blood and other fluids, the company says. It was inherited through the 2011 acquisition of Prometheus Laboratories as part of a plan to develop "personalized nutrition strategies that will help in the management and prevention of chronic health conditions." The NIHS has used the technology in brain health research since 2013.

There are an estimated 47 million people living with dementia, and Alzheimer's is the sixth leading cause of death in the U.S.

"The development of a minimally invasive diagnostic test to identify patients at very early stages is considered as one of the most pressing needs in the treatment of Alzheimer's disease," AC Immune CEO Andrea Pfeifer said in a statement.

Several outsiders are seeking to join the likes of Medtronic ($MDT) as med tech players, but Nestlé is perhaps the most surprising company to join the list. Despite its growing interest in nutritional foods and dermatology, the company is not associated with healthcare. The same can't be said for biotech (and med tech aspirant) Biogen ($BIIB), or high technology--which several Silicon Valley bigwigs are leveraging to enter the space. The efforts of NIHS could change that popular perception, especially if the partnership to create an early-stage Alzheimer's diagnostic successful.

- read the release