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Roche Acquires Rights to Alzheimer’s Drug From AC Immune

Roche Holding AG bought the rights to an experimental drug for Alzheimer’s disease from closely held AC Immune, its second deal with the Swiss company.

Roche’s Genentech unit will pay an undisclosed amount for rights to AC Immune’s anti-Tau antibodies, plus more than 400 million Swiss francs ($421 million) if the drugs meet targets, Lausanne-based AC Immune said in a statement today. Roche will also pay royalties on sales of the treatments.

The deal gives Roche treatments against the second of what are thought to be the two main causes of Alzheimer’s, after buying the rights to crenezumab, a drug fighting the brain plaques that characterize the disease, from AC Immune in 2006. The memory-depleting disease affects 36 million people globally, a number that may double in 20 years.

“Alzheimer’s is one of the biggest medical challenges of our time,” said Alexander Schuth, Genentech’s head of neuroscience business development, in a telephone interview. “The science is breaking open in those fields. We’re on the cusp of being able to make a difference.”

AC Immune’s antibodies target a protein called Tau that causes abnormally high tangles in the brains of Alzheimer’s sufferers. While scientists don’t know what role plaques or tangles play in the disease, they’re thought to block communication among nerve cells, according to the Chicago-based Alzheimer’s Association.

In mice, the antibodies have been shown to reduce the number of tangles and improve memory, Andrea Pfeifer, AC Imune’s chief executive officer, said in a telephone interview. Human trials may start in 18 months to three years, she said.

Roche expects results next year from mid-stage tests of crenezumab in patients with mild to moderate Alzheimer’s, the company has said.

The U.S. National Institutes of Health said last month it plans to test crenezumab in about 300 people in Colombia with a genetic mutation that leaves them nearly certain to develop Alzheimer’s in their 40s.

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