By Karen Young

Neurochem Inc. and H. Lundbeck A/S dissolved their partnership to develop a drug for Alzheimer¿s disease.

¿As a result of different business strategies and some reassessment of program priorities, the program with Neurochem was no longer something [Lundbeck] wanted to continue directing resources to,¿ said Louis Lamontagne, president and CEO of Saint-Laurent, Quebec-based Neurochem. ¿Consequently, we have reached an agreement to go our separate ways.¿

Neurochem¿s lead drug candidate, Alzhemed, was the subject of the collaboration with Lundbeck, of Copenhagen, Denmark, that began in November 1999. Neurochem was to receive up to $17 million in milestone payments and $7.5 million in research support over three years. (See BioWorld Today, Nov. 30, 1999.)

¿We have received approximately $13 million from [Lundbeck], which is essentially the bulk of what we expected,¿ Lamontagne said.

Instead, Lamontagne said Neurochem has regained 100 percent of the rights to the technology, and ¿the financial impact is not significant.¿ He said it will enable Neurochem to accelerate a Phase II trial of Alzhemed, now scheduled to get under way in North America during the second quarter of 2002. Lundbeck had no schedule to begin Phase II trials, Lamontagne said, noting that the next milestone payment for Neurochem was not scheduled until the end of Phase II.

One reason the financial impact will not be great, he said, is that Neurochem received a $7.8 million investment from Industry Canada¿s Technology Partnership Canada in January 2000 to be allocated over a number of years. At the end of Neurochem¿s fiscal year on June 30, the company had C$36.1 million (US$23.1 million) in cash and short-term investments.

¿We still have roughly 30 months of cash,¿ Lamontagne said. ¿The end of the relationship [with Lundbeck] does not impact that at all.¿

Lamontagne said there was no failure of Alzhemed in the clinic. However, he said that ¿obviously if the technology was so hot in their minds,¿ Lundbeck still would be involved in the program.

¿The formulation of the drug was actually improved,¿ Lamontagne said.

For example, the collaboration led to a proof of concept for Alzhemed in a transgenic mouse model of amyloid deposition in the brain. Also, it was formulated into an orally available tablet.

Alzhemed is designed to prevent the formation and accumulation of toxic amyloid fibril plaques in the brains of Alzheimer¿s patients.

¿It¿s well recognized in the clinical and scientific community that amyloid is a major culprit in the destruction of brain cells in Alzheimer¿s disease, and it does so by forming a fiber mass that is extremely toxic to neuronal cells,¿ Lamontagne said. ¿If you can prevent that formation of fiber, then you have a therapeutic approach that distinguishes itself from some of the current products that are used to treat memory impairment and thus address only the symptoms of the disease.¿

Neurochem has a three-pronged approach to tackling Alzheimer¿s disease. The company is pursuing drug development programs for secondary amyloidosis and hemorrhagic stroke due to cerebral amyloid angiopathy, as well.

Neurochem earlier this month entered a collaboration with Select Therapeutics Inc., of Woburn, Mass., to develop a vaccine intended to prevent the development and progression of Alzheimer¿s disease. They plan to gauge feasibility within a year. (See BioWorld Today, Oct. 5, 2001.)

The drug development program for secondary amyloidosis is more advanced. The product, Fibrillex, is in a pivotal Phase II/III trial that could result in a new drug application in 30 to 36 months, Lamontagne said.

Another program, partnered with Nycomed Amersham Imaging, of London, involves creating an Alzheimer¿s disease diagnostic. That is in the development stage.

Neurochem¿s stock (TSE:NRM) fell 50 cents Friday, or 12.5 percent, to close at $3.50.

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