OTTAWA, Ontario - The buildup of brain amyloid deposits is found in those suffering from Alzheimer's disease. Finding methods to detect the deposits at an early stage could lead to development of non-invasive diagnostic and prognostic tools for the devastating disease.

That's the thinking behind a research collaboration between Neurochem Inc., of Montreal, and Resolution Pharmaceuticals Inc., of Mississauga, Ontario. Lise Hebert, director, communications and investor relations at Neurochem, told BioWorld International the two companies will be combining their resources to develop new radioimaging diagnostic compounds targeted at amyloid deposits in the body.

While Alzheimer's disease will be the primary target for the neuroimaging products, it is known that similar amyloid deposits also are found in diseases such as Type II diabetes, arthritis and several rare conditions, including cardiac amyloidosis. Hebert said the imaging products, then, could have value in other disorders.

Neurochem has strengths in drug design and amyloid biochemistry. Since its formation in 1993, it has used in vitro and in vivo assays to develop compounds that inhibit the formation, deposition and cellular toxic effects of amyloid fibrils. The company already has advanced two drug candidates to clinical trials. The first, Fibrillex, for the treatment of secondary amyloidosis disorders, has been granted orphan drug status by the FDA and has successfully completed Phase I clinical trials. A second drug candidate, Alzhemed, for the treatment of Alzheimer's Disease, is in Phase I trials.

Resolution focuses on creating radiopharmaceuticals for the diagnosis of infection, inflammation and psychiatric disorders. Its RP128 compound is in Phase II clinical trials for imaging sites of inflammatory diseases such as Crohn's, osteomyelitis and rheumatoid arthritis. RP527, Resolution's lead product from its oncology program, is expected to begin Phase I/II clinical trials in Europe shortly for use in the diagnosis and imaging of a number of common cancers.

Both companies will work to identify and develop products using Neurochem's amyloid-targeting molecules with Resolution's radioimaging platform technology, Hebert said.

Resolution already has a program in place that will produce large-scale libraries of novel metal-based radiopharmaceuticals and contrast agents. The program, called Combinatorially Designed Metallo-Pharmaceuticals (CDMP), is designed to generate customized collections of metallo-compounds rapidly and efficiently.

John Thornback, general manager and CEO of Resolution, said his company might be the first to apply combinatorial chemistry techniques to the field of metal-containing drugs. That platform, together with Neurochem's expertise, provides the synergy for developing products that have been high on the wish list of clinicians, he said.

With the increase in the incidence of Alzheimer's disease and the development of new treatments, there is a real need to quantitatively measure the effects of the new therapies. By neuroimaging techniques, using the appropriate radiopharmaceutical, clinicians would be able to monitor amyloid plaque formation in the brain, Thornback said.

The collaboration with Resolution represents an important development for Neurochem as it works on an initial public offering. If the company is successful with this issue, it will be only the second Canadian biotech company to go public this year. Vancouver-based AnorMED Inc. had a C$30 million (US$19.9 million) IPO in March.