Eli Lilly ($LLY) plans to buy two of Seimens Healthcare ($SI) Alzheimer's imaging agents, used in PET scans, all part of the drugmaker's shifting approach to treating the disease.
Neither company is disclosing terms of the deal, Reuters reports, but the agents in question detect buildups of tau proteins in the brain, biomarkers for Alzheimer's development. Lilly plans to use Siemens' technology in conjunction with its own FDA-approved tracers for beta-amyloid deposits, also linked to the disease, to develop a combination treatment chasing both targets.
Alzheimer's drug development is a high-stakes game, as Lilly well knows after its amyloid-targeting solanezumab endured two late-stage failures last year, but focusing on both tau and amyloid proteins could be a path to more effective treatment, the company told The Wall Street Journal.
"The most meaningful impact in Alzheimer's might involve targeting multiple pathways and using combinations of drugs," Lilly radiopharmaceuticals CEO Dan Skovronsky told the paper.
As drug developers like Lilly, Merck ($MRK) and Roche ($RHHBY) race to post positive results with Alzheimer's therapies, makers of imaging agents are charting a similar path. In addition to Siemens, GE Healthcare ($GE) and Navidea Biopharmaceuticals ($NAVB) are working on Alzheimer's-targeting agents all their own, angling with one another over efficacy data.
In December, Merck licensed GE's flutemetamol, a PET-powered detector of amyloid deposits, to aid in patient recruitment for its investigative MK-8931 Alzheimer's drug. Meanwhile, Navidea is planning Phase III trials for AZD4694, an amyloid tracer the company touts as more effective than the competition. Neither of the agents is FDA approved for uses beyond research.