Johnson & Johnson puts $1.5bn in Elan for Alzheimer's vaccine
Dublin/New Brunswick – Pharma giant Johnson &Johnson will buy all assets of Irish Elan Pharmaceuticals’ Alzheimer’s Immunotherapy Programme (AIP) through a newly formed company. The new company will pay $1 billion for an 18.4% stake in Elan and will pledge $500 million towards developing bapineuzumab, an intravenously administered passive vaccine candidate directed against the A-beta peptide to slow the disease's progression in the 30% of Alzheimer patients with mild to moderate Alzheimer’s disease (AD) who do not carry the Apolipoprotein E4 (ApoE4) allele (non-carriers).
Elan currently develops the antibody therapy with Wyeth in several Phase III trails and – as subcutaneous injection – in Phase II trials.
Previous approaches of Elan and Wyeth to actively immunise volunteers against a synthetic version of the A-beta peptide, which clumps together in the brain of Alzheimer patients, failed due to saftety issues. About 6% of people vaccinated with an active vaccine called AN-1792 showed a removal of A-beta plaques, but 6% of subjects developed aseptic meningitis in a Phase IIa trail.
Whether the treatment of patients with anti-A-beta antibodies will induce similar side effects is currently unknown. One report has shown that frequency and severity of cerebral microhemorrhage is significantly increased in a passive immunotherapy experiment. In April, Wyeth and Elan discontinued vaccination of ApoE4 non-carriers with the 2.0 mg/kg dose following a review of vasogenic edema of its independent data monotoring committee. Tests with the 0.5 and 1 mg/kg dose will be continued.