Food company Nestle, through the Nestle Institute of Health Sciences (NIHS), is taking steps to enter the health business, most recently by signing a research collaboration agreement with AC Immune, a Swiss biotech company. The agreement will support the development of an Alzheimer’s disease diagnostic test. This is the second medical deal in one week for the world’s largest packaged food company, as sales in processed foods are slowing in many markets.
Alzheimer’s disease develops as a result of a complex series of events taking place in the brain over a long period of time, according to AC Immune. Alzheimer’s disease results when tangles and other abnormal forms of Tau protein accumulate inside and spread between brain cells and beta-amyloid creates plaques and oligomers outside the brain cells. There are 9.9 million new cases of dementia each year, and the incidence and prevalence of Alzheimer’s increase with age. There are currently 46.8 million people living with Alzheimer’s globally, a number that is expected to rise to 131.5 million by 2050. Estimates show that the annual societal and economic costs of dementia rose from $604 billion in 2010 to $818 billion in 2015.
AC Immune is a leading Swiss-based biopharmaceutical company focused on neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, Down’s syndrome, and glaucoma. It designs, discovers, and develops both therapeutic and diagnostic products to prevent and modify diseases caused by misfolding proteins. It currently has three products in clinical trials.
The collaboration will develop a minimally invasive diagnostic assay for Tau. The test will have the potential to identify Alzheimer’s patients at a very early and potentially pre-symptomatic stage of the disease. The development of a test to identify patients in the early stages is one of the most pressing needs in Alzheimer’s disease, said Prof. Andrea Pfeifer, CEO of AC Immune. Early diagnosis is equally needed for the development of both pharmaceutical and nutritional approaches.
“We are very pleased about this research collaboration with NIHS, which marks our fourth partnership involving the Tau protein, endorsing our capability to develop both diagnostics and therapeutics for neurodegenerative diseases,” Pfeifer said. Nestle’s medical products are estimated to eventually make up 10 percent of sales or more.