Alzheimer’s testing technology licensed to Takeda in $87 million deal

A new Alzheimer’s disease biomarker test developed by Durham, North Carolina-based Zinfandel Pharmaceuticals is licensed by Takeda Pharmaceutical Co. in a deal worth up to $87 million.

A new Alzheimer’s disease test developed by a Durham, North Carolina, pharmaceutical company has  been licensed by Takeda Pharmaceutical Co. in a deal valued at up to $87 million.

Under the agreement announced this week, Zinfandel Pharmaceuticals receives an up-front payment of $9 million. Additional milestone payments of up to $78 million would go to Zinfandel if Osaka, Japan-based Takeda reaches development milestones.

Takeda receives an exclusive license with the right to sublicense, develop, make use of and commercialize Zinfandel’s TOMM40 biomarker assay. The companies are studying pioglitazone, the active ingredient in Takeda’s drug Actos. Zinfandel’s assay can be used to identify candidates for testing of Actos in Alzheimer’s patients. The connection between Actos and Alzheimer’s was initially made through research done by the University of Virginia and Case Western Reserve University.

The deal is clearly a win for Zinfandel, a small drug company started by CEO Allen Roses, who is also a Duke University neurobiology and neurology professor. But it could also be significant for Takeda, whose Actos is known to patients as a diabetes drug. Takeda took great pains last summer to distinguish Actos from GlaxoSmithKline’s (NYSE:GSK) diabetes drug Avandia, which has been linked with serious and sometimes fatal heart risks. Avandia is now all but finished as a drug, withdrawn from the European market and allowed in the United States only with strict warnings. Actos is in the same drug class as Avandia, and in the eyes of some, it carries risk by association.

Development of Actos for treating Alzheimer’s could breathe new life into the drug by adding a new indication, one with plenty of potential patients. An estimated 18 million people worldwide currently suffer from Alzheimer’s disease.