Lilly acquires PET tracers for Alzheimer's imaging

Tracers are capable of imaging tau tangles in the brain

Kelsey Kaustinen
INDIANAPOLIS—Eli Lilly and Co. has announced the acquisitionof two investigational positron emission tomography (PET) tracers from Malvern,Pa.-based Siemens Medical Solutions USA, Inc. The two tracers are developed toimage tau, or neurofibrillary, tangles in the brain, which is one of twoidentified signs of Alzheimer's disease. Autopsy samples have revealed that theamount and location of tau tangles in the brain of Alzheimer's disease patientsmight have a correlation with how severe the disease is. Currently, however, noapproved diagnostics exist to identify tau tangles in living patients.
 
Initially, Lilly plans to work on incorporating the newtracers—which will be developed and validated by a team at AvidRadiopharmaceuticals, Inc., Lilly's wholly owned subsidiary—into itsanti-amyloid and anti-tau research and development programs. Lilly also has theoption of commercializing the tracers. No financial details were released. 
 
"PET imaging is a valuable tool in the fight againstAlzheimer's disease, and Siemens is committed to helping fight this growingthreat to our aging population," James Williams, CEO of Siemens' MolecularImaging business unit, commented in a statement. "Lilly's continued developmentof these tau PET tracers combined with Siemens' ongoing investment ininnovative PET imaging solutions is another great example of how Siemens iscollaborating with pharmaceutical companies in an effort to provide new hope topatients and their families."
 
The two main physiological events linked to the developmentof Alzheimer's disease are an accumulation of amyloid-beta protein leading tothe formation of beta-amyloid plaques outside of neurons, and an accumulationof tau proteins leading to tau tangles inside of neurons. Tau tangles arebelieved to impede the transport of nutrients and other essential moleculesthroughout cells, which leads to neurodegeneration. Though tau tanglesgenerally develop after beta-amyloid plaques, the development of theirpathology is thought to be a closer reflection of cognitive decline.
 
 
"The acquisition of these tau tangle tracers builds on our25-year commitment of investing in Alzheimer's disease research and developmentto bring new medicines to patients facing the terrible consequences ofAlzheimer's disease," said Jan M. Lundberg, Ph.D., executive vice president ofscience and technology and president of Lilly Research Laboratories. "We arehopeful that this technology will both enhance our understanding of tau and itsrole in Alzheimer's disease, and contribute to the development of ouranti-amyloid and anti-tau based therapies to treat this disease."
 
In related news, Lilly and Avid Radiopharmaceuticalsannounced back in January that Amyvid, a radioactive diagnostic agent that cancross the blood-brain barrier after injection and selectively bind to amyloidplaques, had received marketing authorization from the European Commission. Theproduct was authorized as a diagnostic radiopharmaceutical indicated for PETimaging of beta-amyloid neuritic plaque density in the brains of patients withcognitive impairment that are under evaluation for Alzheimer's disease andother neurodegenerative conditions.
 
 
 
SOURCE: Eli Lilly and Co. press release

Kelsey Kaustinen

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