Eisai to deploy GE's Alzheimer's imaging agent for clinical trial screening

GE Healthcare's ($GE) PET imaging agent designed to help spot Alzheimer's disease drew in another international drug company partner developing a treatment in the space.

This time, GE Healthcare will ally with Eisai, a Japanese pharmaceutical giant. Eisai is revving up a Phase I clinical trial for Ed609, an amyloid inhibitor and hoped-for Alzheimer's treatment. To help select patients for a trial, Eisai will use GE's flutemetamol, a PET imaging agent designed to help diagnose Alzheimer's disease by detecting beta amyloid buildup in the brain.

In the drug industry there is an intense push to develop a viable Alzheimer's drug treatment, and imaging agents are seen as a crucial tool to help reach that goal. Earlier this month, Eli Lilly ($LLY) announced plans to snatch up two of Siemens Healthcare's ($SI) Alzheimer's imaging agents used for PET scans, a move that will help boost its own drug development efforts in the space.

Pascale Witz--Courtesy of GE

Along those lines, GE's flutemetamol has become a hot commodity, in part because it could theoretically enable an Alzheimer's diagnosis while a patient is still alive, versus confirmation of beta amyloid buildup in post-mortem studies, the current option.

In recent months, GE Healthcare has licensed flutemetamol to Merck ($MRK) and Johnson & Johnson ($JNJ) to help back their development of potential Alzheimer's drugs.

Pascale Witz, president and CEO of GE Healthcare's medical diagnostics arm, said in a statement that the new deal with Eisai could help a new Alzheimer's treatment to market by identifying the right patients for clinical trials.

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