Alzheimer's Biomarker at Center of Bayer Pharma Acquisition

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The promise of FDA-approved drugs for the diagnosis of Alzheimer's disease via diagnostic imaging led to a (potentially) billion-dollar payday for Bayer Pharma, which sold its molecular imaging development portfolio to Piramal Healthcare of Mumbai, India on Sunday.

Via newly branded subsidiary, Piramal Imaging SA, the company will control the rights to florbetaben, the Phase III clinical-trial results of which are a week away from release (at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Neurology), according to a press release from Piramal Healthcare.

Florbetaben, which is intended to detect beta-Amyloid plaques--a signifier of Alzheimer's disease--in the brain via PET imaging, will become the keystone of "a global branded pharma business" that includes the remainder of the molecular imaging properties purchased in the Bayer Pharma deal, said Piramal Group chairman Ajay Piramal in a statement. Piramal estimates the drug could generate as much as $1.5 billion in global revenues.

The PET imaging market for Alzheimer's-related drugs has become something of a bonanza in the past week, with Eli Lilly and GE Healthcare working to shore up their product portfolios in this area.

Hundreds of millions of people worldwide are diagnosed with demetia, of which Alzheimer's is only one form, annually, according to the World Health Organization, which expects that figure to jump drastically in the coming years. If any of these drugs prove their worth in its detection, they will have a narrow threshold to cross: Alzheimer's disease was previously only conclusively identifiable in posthumous dissection of the brain.