MDS Nordion, a provider of medical isotopes and radiopharmaceuticals used in molecular medicine, has entered into a collaboration with Avid Radiopharmaceuticals to support clinical studies for Avid's radiopharmaceuticals designed to diagnose and monitor Alzheimer's disease.

Those trials will use advanced molecular imaging known as single photon emission computed tomography (SPECT). MDS Nordion will radiolabel Avid's compounds for use in proof-of-concept clinical trials for SPECT imaging of Alzheimer's disease.

"First of all, the whole notion of what we're doing is providing an imaging biomarker for Alzheimer's, and this is really part of the new wave of molecular imaging and personalized medicine, or molecular medicine," said Steve West, president of Ottawa, Ontario-based MDS Nordion.

West declined to disclose the dollar amount that the company would be contributing to the early proof-of-concept trials, saying only that the company would be contributing its "expertise and [its] development capabilities to the project."

Although the agreement is only for the initial trials, West said, "We would hope that, if the product is proving efficacious, and all the health and safety requirements are met, then this would continue into wider trials and maybe go into Phase I." The company has begun proof of concept with other companies' products and now is manufacturing those products, he added. "For a company like ours, one of the endgames is actually manufacturing the product."

Avid, based in Philadelphia, has developed what it calls "novel" radiopharmaceuticals for imaging Alzheimer's disease pathology. Increasingly, molecular imaging is being used as a biomarker tool to guide the development of new therapeutics.

Avid's lead product candidates are being developed to identify amyloid protein plaques, which are thought to accumulate in the brain before the onset of clinical symptoms of the disease. Avid's compounds may enable earlier diagnosis and also allow researchers to better evaluate therapeutic drug candidates for the prevention or reversal of amyloid plaque buildup in the brain.

According to the Alzheimer's Association, about 5 million Americans suffer from the disease. As the population ages that number is expected to grow significantly. The association estimates that the direct and indirect costs for treatment and care of Alzheimer's patients in the U.S. alone total $148 billion annually.

"Today, I don't think it's a disease where at the molecular level, we're really understanding or identifying what's going on, so the Avid technology that we're developing [with them] would allow them to enable the earlier diagnosis of Alzheimer's at the molecular level and not the larger morphological level," West said.

West said such molecular imaging technology would enable physicians to understand what's happening with "a greater level of knowledge and detail.

"This whole area of molecular imaging is nascent, I would say today, but everybody believes it's going to be pivotal in the world of personalized medicine," he said.

MDS Nordion has established a strong track record in radiopharmaceutical formulation, production and process development. It provides integrated services that support the discovery and production of molecular imaging agents and radiopharmaceuticals. With GMP facilities in Ottawa and Vancouver, Canada, and Fleurus, Belgium, MDS Nordion said it can accommodate a variety of production and supply requirements.

"As a world leader in molecular medicine with extensive experience and expertise in the development and production of radiopharmaceuticals, it was a natural choice for us to work with MDS Nordion on our molecular imaging agents for the early and accurate diagnosis of Alzheimer's disease," said Alan Carpenter, vice president of business development at Avid.