Celera Diagnostics announced it has entered into a collaboration with Merck to identify novel targets for drug discovery and diagnostic markers related to Alzheimer's disease.
The collaboration between the two life science companies is a commitment on both parties to developing diagnostics and therapeutic options for this disease. In addition the partnership also provides the opportunity to identify novel genetic associations in several significant diseases.
Under the terms of the agreement, Celera Diagnostics will conduct afunctional genome scan with the goal of identifying novel gene associationswith Alzheimer's disease, retaining retain the rights for diagnostic applications from the studies.
Kathy Ordoñez, president, Celera Diagnostics said: "This collaboration with Merck provides both parties with the opportunity to leverage the power of the disease association platform we have used at Celera Diagnostics to identify genetic associations in several diseases."
Merck are to receive rights for therapeutic applications from the studies in Alzheimer's disease, as well as for certain other neurological disorders. Merck will make milestone and royalty a payment on sales of pharmaceutical products Merck commercialises.
Dennis W. Choi, executive vice president at Merck Research Laboratories added: "The collaboration with Celera Diagnostics provides us with the opportunity to scan the human genome for genetic variations associated with Alzheimer's disease, which could have therapeutic implications and complement research currently underway at Merck."
There are an estimated 18 million people in the world with dementia, according to the charity Alzheimer's Disease International, which estimates that by 2025 this figure could increase to 34 million. And finding a treatment that could delay onset by just five years could reduce the number of individuals with Alzheimer's disease by nearly 50 per cent after 50 years.
Current drugs for the condition, which only try to prop up the impaired cognitive and memory systems in Alzheimer's sufferers, do not treat the underlying cause and hence are fighting a losing battle.
Current research progress into this disorder is made all the more difficult due to the disease's sheer complexity. As well as developing a drug that is able to remove the 'bad protein', beta amyloid, which deposits as plaques in the brains of Alzheimer's sufferers, the drug has to be able to re-establish the functions of, and mutual communication between, neuronal cells. The drug also needs to improve memory and learning abilities.