Roche seeks edge in Alzheimer's treatment

The Swiss pharmaceuticals group, Roche, has acquired a worldwide exclusive licence to develop compounds for treatment for Alzheimer's disease.

This content was published on July 30, 2002

Roche on Tuesday announced it had purchased the licence from privately held US-based Memory Pharmaceuticals. The Swiss group said it aimed to jointly develop drugs not only for Alzheimer's, but also for other disorders, such as depression.

The first potential Alzheimer's drug licensed from Memory is due to go into clinical trials in the near future, Roche added.

The Basel-based company said it would make up-front, research and development funding, and periodic payments to Memory based on progress, which could total some $150 million (SFr227 million). Roche will also pay Memory royalties on any product sales.

Potential market

The potential market for the drug is huge, say analysts, with dementia affecting 18 million people worldwide, a figure expected to rise to 34 million over the next 25 years.

But some analysts cautioned against expecting too much from the deal. "This is just another pre-clinical project," said Zurich Cantonal Bank analyst, Patrick Burgermeister. "But you can say they are working in an attractive area."

Alzheimer's disease - the commonest form of dementia - affects 5-10 per cent of people over the age of 65 and 30-35 per cent of those over 85.

The causes of the degenerative disease are still unknown, and it could until recently be diagnosed with certainty only after a patient had died. New brain scanning techniques, however, may make diagnosis easier in future.

Existing drugs on the market are used to treat only the slow progression during the early stages of the disease.

swissinfo with agencies

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