Athena Neuroscience Inc. officials are trying to buildconsensus among neurologists about when theapolipoprotein E (ApoE) blood test should be used in thediagnosis of Alzheimer's disease.

Athena last week received a worldwide license fromDuke University to the use of ApoE as a diagnostic test.Also, Duke, of Durham, N.C., said it received a notice ofallowance for a patent claiming use of the diagnostic test.

Duke researchers found the presence of a form of ApoE,called ApoE4, significantly increases the probability thata patient's dementia is caused by Alzheimer's disease.Athena said diagnosis of an E4, E4 genotype in a patientwith dementia indicates a 94 percent likelihood thedementia is caused by Alzheimer's disease. About 60percent of those with dementia have Alzheimer's as acause, the company said.

John Groom, president and CEO of South San Francisco-based Athena, said the company, once it builds supportfrom neurologists, intends to pursue more-activecommercialization of the diagnostic now that its optionwas exercised and the patent issued. Also, he said,Athena plans to take actions to enforce the patent until itsexclusive rights are recognized.

Athena currently offers the ApoE blood test through itswholly owned subsidiary, Athena Diagnostics Inc., ofWorcester, Mass. The use is recommended only forsymptomatic patients. Separately, Athena is developingtwo peptides that will help in ruling in or ruling outAlzheimer's disease. n

-- Jim Shrine

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