By Brady Huggett

Looking for another source of funds, therapeutic company Neurochem Inc. is collaborating with Nycomed Amersham Imaging to create a diagnostic product for Alzheimer¿s disease.

The companies will use Saint-Laurent, Quebec-based Neurochem¿s molecules to design and select a product to detect the presence of amyloid plaques prevalent in Alzheimer¿s patients. But they will work together, said Louis Lamontagne, CEO and president of Neurochem.

¿This is a co-development,¿ he said. ¿It¿s not like we licensed anything out. We are providing molecules that can cross the blood-brain barrier and recognize amyloid fibers.¿

The deal includes milestone payments to Neurochem, and ¿less than 10 percent¿ royalties in the event of a successful product launch, Lamontagne said. There also will be a licensing agreement if and when the product is developed.

Under the terms, Neurochem will identify amyloid-binding molecules from its library of compounds, and London-based Nycomed will synthesize radiolabeled binding molecules to be used in conjunction with diagnostic imaging tools.

The idea is to allow for early and accurate diagnosis of Alzheimer¿s disease, an affliction for which there is no easy, definitive way to detect, and which has limited treatments. Lamontagne told BioWorld Today the potential population that could benefit from an Alzheimer¿s diagnostic is signficant.

¿All patients that have Alzheimer¿s would take the test in order to monitor the disease,¿ he said. ¿But there are also people at risk. And there are some genetic markers that are starting to be identified. It¿s possible that, as people get into their 50s and 60s, you would get the test for Alzheimer¿s.¿

A viable product from the collaboration is some ways off, and by then, Lamontagne said he hopes there will be a greater amount of options for Alzheimer¿s suffers. But, he noted, there are several companies in the sector today ¿advancing with potential therapeutic interventions.¿ That list includes Neurochem.

Lamontagne said, barring any unforeseen complications, Neurochem should get its product, Fibrillex, to market in three years.

¿We are working on that now for secondary amyloidosis ¿ it¿s in a final-stage, pivotal Phase II/III trial,¿ Lamontagne said. ¿You can predict in the 30- to 36-month time frame, we would have our first [new drug application]. That puts us in a revenue position at that point.¿

If all goes well on the diagnostic side, Neurochem will be pulling in royalties from an Alzheimer¿s disease diagnostic product in the future as well, Lamontagne said. Until then, it will focus on milestones.

¿We are a therapeutics company,¿ he said. ¿As far as the development of diagnostic products, we have no expertise whatsoever. But we felt this was something that would create value for our company without blowing our brains out on development costs.¿

Neurochem trades on the Toronto Stock Exchange. Its stock (TSE:NRM) rose C30 cents Thursday to close at C$7.00 (US$4.54).

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