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Merck, Luminex Partner on Alzheimer’s Screening Device

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The pharmaceutical company Merck & Co and diagnostics developer Luminex Corp. in Austin, Texas will develop a device to screen patients for tests of Merck’s experimental drug to treat Alzheimer’s disease. Financial terms and timetable of the deal were not disclosed.

Merck is researching a potential treatment for Alzheimer’s disease, code-named MK-8931, that inhibits an enzyme considered important to the production of beta amyloid peptide, which contributes to the formation of plaques in the brain. The accumulation of beta amyloid in the brain is believed to be an important indicator of Alzheimer’s disease.

An early clinical trial shows MK-8931 can reduce beta amyloid levels in cerebrospinal fluid by greater than 90 percent in healthy volunteers and people with Alzheimer’s disease without dose-limiting side effects.  A larger clinical trial is now testing the safety and efficacy of MK-8931 against a placebo in patients with mild-to-moderate Alzheimer’s disease.

Under the agreement, Merck will license from Luminex a screening device developed to work with MK-8931 for selecting patients most likely to be helped by the drug. The device will measure concentrations of two biomarkers — beta amyloid 42 and t-tau — in samples of cerebrospinal fluid from patients with mild congitive impairment that can identify people with a higher risk of Alzheimer’s disease.

Luminex expects to use its diagnostic platform technology that applies polymerase chain reactions, a process for amplifying small segments of DNA, in the new device. The company will be responsible for the device’s development, regulatory submission and commercialization.

In December, GE Healthcare agreed to supply Merck with the imaging agent 18F flutemetamol used in positron emission tomography (PET) scans to detect beta amyloid deposits in the brains of living patients. Before the use of these PET scans, only post-mortem examinations could find evidence of beta amyloid deposits.

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Hat tip: FirstWord Pharma

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