A Medical Device Daily

The Blanchette Rockefeller Neurosciences Institute (BRNI; Morgantown, West Virginia) and Inverness Medical Innovations (Waltham, Massachusetts) have agreed to work together to further develop and commercialize a diagnostic test for Alzheimer's disease first discovered by scientists at BRNI.

The organizations say that the BRNI test, once fully commercialized, could dramatically change the time and way that the disease is treated. The agreement also marks the first major global private sector deal involving BRNI technology and science. Inverness will fund the development efforts to be conducted by BRNI over an initial three-year period. Inverness has also obtained an option which, if exercised, will provide Inverness with certain rights to the technology developed for use in the diagnosis, prognosis and monitoring of Alzheimer's disease.

"We are very pleased to be working with the world-class memory institute at BRNI, and share in their commitment to advance this test for Alzheimer's disease," said Ron Zwanziger, CEO of Inverness. "This is an exciting opportunity for Inverness to enhance the lives of patients with chronic disease and continues our commitment to rapidly deploy diagnostics and develop new treatments for devastating diseases such as Alzheimer's."

Affecting more than 5 million Americans, Alzheimer's disease has no recognized cure and is difficult to diagnose, the organizations noted. In fact, doctors can only definitely diagnose the illness at autopsy and there is currently no approved biochemical test to diagnose it. Finding a cure for the disease is one of the central missions of the BRNI.

"It is still challenging to accurately diagnose Alzheimer's disease, but I believe we are on the path to realizing a test that will take the guess work out of proper treatment," said Dr. Daniel Alkon, scientific director of BRNI. "An accurate early test will allow physicians to treat patients sooner and more effectively before symptoms intensify and the disease rapidly escalates."

BRNI first discovered the biomarker test's potential in 2006. By testing for signs of Alzheimer's-related inflammation in skin cells called fibroblasts, the BRNI team located a biomarker for the disease that can be tested without the invasive procedures previously required, such as a lumbar tap. The key molecular targets that the BRNI biomarker determines reflect PKC signaling which appears to be compromised very early on during Alzheimer's and probably well before the onset of clinical symptoms. These pathways could also be a focus for drug therapy.

"An early diagnosis could prevent countless patients from suffering through this devastating disease," said William Singer, president of BRNI's board of directors. "This partnership will ensure that expanded clinical trials occur quickly which will be a major leap in bringing a proven Alzheimer's disease diagnostic to the public."

"Ultimately, the goal of the [BRNI] is to cure Alzheimer's disease, and the path to a cure begins with detecting the disease early," said Senator Jay Rockefeller (D-West Virginia), who founded BRNI in memory of his mother. "I applaud the Inverness-BRNI partnership for advancing this research, and I'm deeply proud of the work that goes on every day in West Virginia at BRNI to get us closer to a greater understanding of the disease and a cure."

BRNI is operated in alliance with West Virginia University (Morgantown) as well as in collaboration with other academic institutions such as Johns Hopkins University. Rockefeller founded the Institute in memory of his mother, Blanchette Hooker Rockefeller, who died of Alzheimer's disease.

In other agreements and contracts news:

• American Shared Hospital Services (AMS; San Francisco), a provider of turnkey technology solutions for advanced radiosurgical and radiation therapy services, said it has entered a contract to supply a Leksell Gamma Knife Perfexion system to Smilow Cancer Hospital at Yale-New Haven (New Haven, Connecticut). This new Perfexion system, the seventh placed by AMS to date, will replace an existing Gamma Knife supplied by AMS and is expected to begin treating patients in the fourth quarter of 2009.

The 14-story, 500,000-square-foot Smilow Cancer Hospital is scheduled to open in October 2009.

According to AMS, the Leksell Gamma Knife Perfexion system refines and expands the therapeutic potential for radiosurgery procedures in the brain, skull, cervical spine and head & neck regions, and is widely regarded as the most advanced stereotactic radiosurgery system available today.

• MRO (King of Prussia, Pennsylvania) reported a contract with DeKalb Medical (Decatur, Georgia) to provide the non-profit health system with the company's release-of-information (ROI) online software service.

According to MRO, the ROI processing solution will allow the medical records department to exert more control over the ROI process, efficiently respond to ROI requests and streamline delivery to internal and external requesters.

• Premier Purchasing Partners (San Diego) reported that new agreements for spinal implants and related products have been awarded to Aesculap Implant Systems (Center Valley, Pennsylvania), DePuy Spine (Raynham, Massachusetts), and Medtronic Sofamor Danek (Memphis, Tennessee).

Effective July 1, the agreements with Aesculap and Medtronic are available to acute care and continuum of care members of the Premier healthcare alliance, and the DePuy spine agreement is available to surgery centers and acute care members.