Schering forges partnership to develop PET agent for Alzheimer’s

July 20, 2006

Schering has teamed with Avid Radiopharmaceuticals to help the Philadelphia start-up develop a PET-based radiotracer for Alzheimer’s disease. Avid has developed compounds that selectively bind to amyloid plaques, the aberrant substance that accumulates in patients with AD.

Schering has teamed with Avid Radiopharmaceuticals to help the Philadelphia start-up develop a PET-based radiotracer for Alzheimer's disease. Avid has developed compounds that selectively bind to amyloid plaques, the aberrant substance that accumulates in patients with AD.

Avid already has one of this class of compounds in phase 1 clinical tests, attached to a radiotracer useful for SPECT imaging. Phase 2 trials are expected to begin at several sites within several months. But Schering is interested only in the preclinical PET product.

"With its higher resolutions and quantitative abilities, PET would be used more for confirmation of diagnosis or to quantitate disease progression, particularly after therapy has begun. This will become increasingly important as new therapies are developed," said Daniel Skovronsky, president and CEO of Avid.

SPECT agents, he said, would be more for screening applications, because of the wider availability and lower cost of this modality.

Under the terms of the agreement, Schering has the option to assume exclusive rights to develop and commercialize any of Avid's novel compounds for use in PET imaging.

"Schering has experience running clinical trials for diagnostic imaging agents and we look forward to tapping into that and working with the company throughout the trials," Skovronsky said.

Alzheimer's disease affects about 4.5 million people in the U.S., about twice as many as in 1980. The number will go up as the population ages, and will exceed 12 million by 2050, according to some estimates.

Skovronsky envisions radiotracers developed for both SPECT and PET. These products will have similar core chemical structures, but will bear different radioactive labels. Schering will be looking into the development of a fluorine-based PET product, he said.

The two companies met after Avid presented data about the compounds at a scientific meeting. Of particular interest to Schering was the high affinity of the compounds for amyloid plaque and their ability to cross the blood-brain barrier.

The clinical development of these compounds sprang from research Skovronsky conducted eight years ago while studying for his doctorate and medical degrees at the University of Pennsylvania. Following a residency in pathology and a fellowship in neuropathology, Skovronsky detoured into the business world.

"I believed in this technology, and that there was a huge unmet need for diagnosing Alzheimer's Disease," Skovronsky said, explaining his decision. "I realized that forming a company was the best way to accelerate development of these compounds, because a company can put more resources into them than can academia," he said.