GE teams up with J&J on hunt for early Alzheimer's biomarkers

GE Healthcare and Johnson & Johnson ($JNJ) are teaming up on a new project aimed at finding pre-symptomatic biomarkers that can help accelerate the diagnosis and treatment of Alzheimer's. Both companies are already far advanced with new diagnostic and therapeutic technology for the memory-wasting disease, which remains one of the life science industry's most complex challenges.

J&J and Pfizer ($PFE) are working on bapineuzumab, a late-stage therapy that triggered brain swelling in a mid-stage study, making it harder to recruit volunteers for Phase III. And GE is just as far advanced with Flutemetamol, a new imaging agent intended to identify the disease at an early point. Neither company reviewed the financial details involved in the deal.

"The collaboration we are announcing today is part of this effort to understand Alzheimer's," Pascale Witz, president and chief executive of medical diagnostics at GE Healthcare. "We think defining this biosignature could allow a major step forward in managing Alzheimer's disease in patients," she added to Reuters. "If you can identify disease earlier, then therapy may be more effective and you may have more time to treat the patient than we have today."

"The underlying pathologies associated with Alzheimer's disease, such as the formation of amyloid plaques and tau tangles in the tissues of the brain, can precede the onset of memory loss and other clinical symptoms by decades," said Husseini Manji, chief of Neuroscience Research & Development at Johnson & Johnson Pharmaceutical Research & Development. "In establishing biosignatures of Alzheimer's disease, we will enable non-invasive identification of disease pathologies that help support earlier diagnosis and regular monitoring of disease progression. These in turn may allow earlier intervention in the disease process, when there may be more opportunity to delay or diminish clinical symptoms."

- here's the Janssen release
- see the story from Reuters