Quanterix links up with Eli Lilly for Alzheimer's blood biomarker testing collaboration

Amid its recent decision to pump the brakes on the FDA application for its experimental Alzheimer’s drug donanemab, Eli Lilly appears to be casting a wider net in its efforts to improve treatment of the neurodegenerative disease.

Newly snared in that net is Quanterix, which is developing molecular diagnostic tools to detect and analyze disease biomarkers in the blood. Quanterix and Lilly are now joining forces with a primary goal of improving Alzheimer’s diagnoses using Quanterix’s technology and Lilly’s proprietary Alzheimer’s biomarker, plasma-based P-tau217.

Part of their agreement will give Quanterix nonexclusive global access to P-tau217, which it will be able to use first in the creation of new products and services for research use only and, eventually, to develop in vitro diagnostics for Alzheimer’s.

News of the partnership came as Quanterix reported its full-year 2021 revenue—$110.6 million compared to the previous year’s $86.4 million—and announced longtime CEO Kevin Hrusovsky will be replaced at the helm by President Masoud Toloue, effective April 25.

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A study published in 2020 showed measuring the amount of P-tau217 in blood plasma provided a better method of distinguishing between Alzheimer’s and other neurodegenerative diseases than other blood-based biomarkers or MRI analysis.

The P-tau217 analysis also generated results not significantly different from cerebrospinal fluid- and PET-based biomarkers. Lilly said at the time that those findings indicated its blood test could be used to improve access to accurate Alzheimer’s diagnoses in clinical settings, replacing other imaging and analysis technologies that can be more expensive and invasive, less widely available and slower moving than a relatively simple blood test.

By giving Quanterix access to the biomarker, Lilly is aiming to speed up the development of even more accurate, fast-moving and readily available diagnostic tools that can be used to detect Alzheimer’s as early as possible, monitor the progression of the disease and inform research into new therapeutics.

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“Our collaboration leverages Lilly’s advanced antibody technology with the ultra-sensitive Simoa technology, which we believe has the potential to identify Alzheimer’s early in the pathology, potentially before the onset of severe symptoms—a concept we call ‘neurodiagnostic therapy,’” Hrusovsky said in a statement.

The companies previously teamed up to monitor levels of P-tau217 throughout a trial of Lilly’s donanemab, with Quanterix’s Simoa diagnostic platform and immunoassays able to detect a drop in levels of the biomarker as treatment continued.

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Quanterix and Lilly’s partnership stretches beyond Alzheimer’s, too, with an overarching goal of making blood-based biomarker testing a routine part of clinical care. For example, their agreement tees up a future collaboration on other immunoassays developed on Quanterix’s Simoa platform.

To support that work, Lilly has pledged $11 million to the Quanterix Accelerator Laboratory, which conducts biomarker research and blood test development.

Other financial terms of the partnership weren’t disclosed.