Piramal lays claim to a late-stage imaging rival for Lilly's Alzheimer's agent

Bayer has sold off its portfolio of molecular imaging agents to India's Piramal Healthcare in a package deal that includes a late-stage agent that could eventually rival Eli Lilly's ($LLY) newly approved Amyvid for detecting Alzheimer's-related brain plaque. Piramal wasn't saying just how much it paid for the portfolio, but rather breezily claimed that the market for such Alzheimer's imaging agents could amount to $1.5 billion.

Right now, though, it's hard to say exactly what these agents could be worth. Amyvid was approved for ruling out Alzheimer's, giving doctors one more tool to use to evaluate patients. But with no proven therapy on the market and an as-yet undeciphered link between beta amyloid and Alzheimer's, the initial use seems largely restricted to the clinical trial field as developers study new drugs.

None of those concerns were apparent in Piramal's release, though, as it outlined ambitious plans for florbetaben as a diagnostic tool for Alzheimer's, giving physicians another method for mapping beta amyloid with a PET scan. The company touted the late-stage success of the agent, with data slated to be reviewed later this month.

"This is the second acquisition of late stage assets after our acquisition of assets of BioSyntech in 2011, where we have recently received the European CE mark approval for an innovative bio-orthopaedic product for cartilage repair, BST-CarGel, which enables the company to commercialize BST-CarGel in all of the countries in the European Union," said Piramal Chairman Ajay Piramal. "We plan to build a promising portfolio in the pharma space, including our newly acquired Molecular Imaging assets, which will help us create a global branded pharma business."

Piramal boasts that it's building a business on novel treatments after selling its generics operation to Abbott ($ABT) in 2010. 

- here's the press release
- here's the story from The Wall Street Journal