Amarantus licenses Alzheimer's blood Dx

Amarantus BioScience is jumping on the Alzheimer's diagnostics bandwagon. The California biotechnology company exercised an option to license a blood test under development designed to identify the disease at an early stage.

The deal with MDx (formerly Provista Life Sciences) for the company's LymPro test demonstrates an eye toward potential gain down the line. Amarantus will pay two million shares of restricted common stock to MDx, plus a development milestone once LymPro completes its Phase II validation study. (It has done well so far in two Phase I tests, showing a high degree of accuracy.) Separately, MDx stands to make a 9% royalty on sales, Amarantus says, and MDx will conduct the clinical validation study to earn LymPro's CLIA certification. Together, they'll also pursue "relationships" with Big Pharma companies regarding LymPro and seek grant money to further the test's development. Additionally, Amarantus keeps the right to sublicense LymPro to a third party.

LymPro comes with an international pedigree from the minds of researchers at the University of Leipzig in Germany. It has also had some U.S. development support, backed by more than $3 million in National Institutes of Health grants to date, according to the deal announcement.

Amarantus is smartly drawn to the test's concept of diagnosing Alzheimer's in its earlier stages. A number of Alzheimer's treatments under development have reached late-stage human trials only to fail to combat the disease at an advanced stage, and researchers are aggressively trying instead to commence the battle sooner, when patients display mild or moderate symptoms. The idea is that scientists have a better chance of stopping or even reversing Alzheimer's before the neurodegenerative disease does too much damage. Crucially, then, a diagnostic that can spot the disease on the early side will make all the difference. Additionally, Amarantus sees the test as a cost-effective, minimally invasive tool (cheaper to use than brain imaging) that could nimbly compete in the Alzheimer's diagnostics space. The diagnostic test is designed to separate the disease from other forms of dementia by identifying immune-based biomarkers in Alzheimer's patients' blood.

"We believe LymPro has significant and clinical potential as a diagnostic blood test for Alzheimer's disease," Amarantus President and CEO Gerald Commissiong said in a statement. "It is clear that the path forward for treating Alzheimer's disease is to identify and initiate therapeutic intervention as early as possible."

Amarantus said it is focusing on expanding its diagnostics pipeline, but the company also sees the LymPro licensing as a way to unlock the long-term potential of a therapeutic protein it has known as mesencephalic-astrocyte-derived neurotrophic factor (MANF), a potential treatment for various brain disorders. Commissiong said the compound isn't currently being tested to treat Alzheimer's, but that identification of early-stage patients with the disease would open the door for the company to test MANF for that group of patients.

- read the release

Special Report: The Alzheimer's pipeline: What's next?