By Karen Young

Neurochem Inc. and Select Therapeutics Inc. launched a collaboration aimed at the discovery of a vaccine intended to prevent the development and progression of Alzheimer¿s disease.

The companies first will determine within one year the feasibility of using Neurochem¿s technology for a vaccine, said Lise Hebert, director of communications and investor relations for Neurochem.

Under the agreement, Neurochem, of Saint-Laurent, Quebec, will provide Alzheimer¿s disease antigens from its proprietary library. Select, of Woburn, Mass., will use its Verovax technology to target antigens isolated by Neurochem directly to dendritic cells.

¿Neurochem¿s vaccine is a modified amyloid-beta fragment that will be used as the antigen to create the immune response,¿ Hebert said.

That complex will be undertaken by dendritic cells, which will process and metabolize the complex to present it to immunoglobulin-producing cells, she said.

¿[It is a] nice, specific channeling pathway to target immunoglobulin-producing cells,¿ Hebert said. ¿What we hope to achieve is a good immunoglobulin fighter with no associated inflammation.¿

The Verovax technology uses a targeting agent called VT-B to deliver specific peptides to dendritic cells.

The companies are focusing on a protein known as beta-amyloid, which is a major focus of attention in studying how plaque forms in the brains of patients with Alzheimer¿s. Plaque is considered to be the cause of death of surrounding neuronal cells.

Neurochem¿s stock (TSE: NRM) closed at C$3.70 Thursday, down C20 cents. Select¿s stock (AMEX:XZL) gained 2 cents to close at $1.30.