J&J, GE team up on early warning system for Alzheimer's

Johnson & Johnson has joined hands with GE Healthcare to collaborate on new imaging and diagnostic technology that can be used to offer an early warning system for signs of Alzheimer's.

"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," says Husseini Manji, global therapeutic area head of neuroscience research & development at Johnson & Johnson. "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."

Both companies have considerable experience working on Alzheimer's. GE has been working on an imaging agent, Flutemetamol, that's now in late-stage development. J&J, meanwhile, has been teamed with Pfizer on bapineuzumab, a late-stage therapy that triggered brain swelling in a mid-stage study, making it harder to recruit volunteers for Phase III.

According to the Alzheimer's Association, deaths attributed to the disease have increased by more than 46% between 2000 and 2006. Today, in the US alone, 5.3 million people have Alzheimer's disease, and the annual cost of the disease is $172 billion. It is the 6th leading cause of death, and its mortality rates are expected to rise as the baby boomer population ages.

- here's the Janssen release