J&J Partners With Biotech Startup Alector to Develop New Alzheimer’s Therapies

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Biotech startup Alector announced in a press release that it will begin a partnership with Janssen Pharmaceuticals Inc., the pharmaceutical arm of Johnson & Johnson (NYSE:JNJ). The two companies are teaming up to develop new therapies to treat Alzheimer’s disease, FierceBiotech reported Monday.

The San Francisco-based Alector was founded by two scientists with extensive backgrounds in the Alzheimer’s drug field; the startup is currently backed by Tillman Gerngross’s Adimab. Gerngross called the new partnership a “win-win for both parties.”

In the new partnership, Johnson & Johnson will fund research into one of the biotech’s targets and will reserve rights to negotiate an agreement on the drug if the results still looks promising at the end of the early-stage exploration work; none of the financial details of the partnership have been disclosed.

“As part of our strategy to engage large pharma partners early in the discovery process, we are delighted to collaborate with Johnson & Johnson Innovation on this program. It exemplifies how large pharma companies can access early stage exploratory, high risk high reward programs,” said Arnon Rosenthal, President and Chief Executive Officer of Alector, per FierceBiotech.

News of the partnership offers a glimmer of promise after Johnson & Johnson’s failed Alzheimer’s play two years ago; the drug, bapineuzumab, failed to beat out a placebo in treating the disease in clinical trials. Around the same time, FierceBiotech reports, Eli Lilly had a similar let-down when its solanezumab drug, which was also being developed for the treatment of Alzheimer’s, failed in Phase 3 trials. Since then, industry leaders have had to turn to new ideas regarding how to treat or slow the disease.

The announcement of Alector’s new partnership with Johnson & Johnson comes just days after headlines announced that Alzheimer’s may be more prevalent than is currently known. A Bloomberg report released last week said a new study suggests that the disease may actually be the third rather than the sixth biggest killer in the U.S.

“We think Alzheimer’s disease has been getting the short shrift because it hasn’t been considered a major killer, when it’s really one of the top three in the country,” said Bryan James, an epidemiologist at the Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, speaking with Bloomberg.

Alzheimer’s currently affects more than 5 million people in the U.S., and the new study suggests that as many as half a million die each year as a result of the disease. Additionally, the global market for Alzheimer’s is expected to rise to $14.5 billion by 2020, from $5.8 billion in 2011, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.

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