GE Healthcare Strengthens R&D Efforts in Alzheimer’s Disease
News Apr 13, 2012
Collaboration aims to increase the accuracy of pre-symptomatic diagnoses, and discover pharmaceuticals for PET exams and contributing to new treatments on the molecular level.
GE Healthcare (Chalfont St. Giles, U.K.; John Dineen, president and CEO), Medical Diagnostics business has entered into research collaboration with Clino Ltd. (Sendai, Miyagi Prefecture; Noriaki Satake, president), a venture by Tohoku University to discover in vivo imaging tracers for tau proteins that accumulate in the brains of Alzheimer’s Disease patients.
Yukitsuka Kudo, head of imaging at Clino and a professor at Tohoku University Innovation of New Biomedical Engineering Center, explains the significance of the research project: “The development of radiotracers for tau examinations involves a number of hurdles, and we’re hoping that our joint research with GE’s worldwide operation will enable us to serve as a bridge that will speed the further evolution of these pharmaceuticals, as well as their progression through clinical and therapeutic trials.”
Professor Hiroyuki Arai of the Institute of Development, Aging and Cancer at Tohoku University is the leading domestic researcher on Alzheimer’s and the first person in the world to succeed in detecting tau proteins in cerebrospinal fluid and argue for their significance as surrogate biomarker. Dr. Arai stresses the crucial nature of tau imaging in Alzheimer’s diagnoses: “Research data on PET imaging of amyloid are currently being accumulated, and the thinking now is that if we can conduct additional tau PET imaging on healthy subjects who have tested positive in amyloid PET exams, it will become possible to identify those with high risk of converting to Alzheimer’s. This could lead to diagnoses of pre-clinical stage Alzheimer’s disease’, which may enable prevention before the onset of symptoms.”
As of 2010, there were a total of approximately 35.6 million confirmed cases of Alzheimer’s disease worldwide, and projections indicate that the total will reach 115.4 million cases by 2050.(1) In Japan, which is leading the world in terms of the advance of population aging, there were approximately 2 million cases in 2010, with a projected 3.25 million expected by 2020(2). Alzheimer’s is thought to be caused by accumulations within the brain of beta amyloid and tau proteins. Beta amyloid plaques are thought to begin accumulating within the brain 30 years before symptoms appear, and tau proteins ten years prior.
“The collaboration we are announcing today is part of our ongoing effort to understand and identify Alzheimer’s disease in its very early stages,” said Pascale Witz, CEO of GE Healthcare Medical Diagnostics. “The combination of our different business offerings positions us well to offer an integrated global diagnostics solution for the next generation of therapies. We are working with pharma to understand their strategic needs and design solutions accordingly.”
GE Healthcare already provides the worldwide supply of (11)C-PIB, a PET contrast agent for beta amyloid detection developed by the University of Pittsburgh in 2003 and for which GE Healthcare has obtained exclusive rights of utilization. In addition, if the new joint venture with Clino results in the identification of agents that can distinguish tau accumulation, it will become possible to diagnose the level of severity of Alzheimer’s symptoms. It would also be expected to enable the development of drugs by the pharmaceutical industry and research institutes that would target tau proteins on the molecular level.
Further, GE Healthcare and Clino will consider collaborations with other companies and research institutes developing tau protein therapies. These are among the many efforts aimed at contributing to the early, precise diagnosis and treatment of Alzheimer’s.
In addition to development of pharmaceuticals, GE Healthcare is currently providing diagnostic imaging devices such as PET and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scanners in support of the detection of cognitive diseases including Alzheimer’s. They have also been supporters from the outset of the Alzheimer’s Disease Neuroimaging Initiative (ADNI), a clinical observational research project designed to generate standards for Alzheimer’s diagnosis and assessment of the degree to which the disease has progressed. They are moving ahead with a diverse range of efforts toward the imaging evaluation of cognitive diseases around the world including in Japan.