Merck & Co has linked up with Canada’s Alectos Therapeutics to develop compounds for Alzheimer’s disease.

Specifically the companies will be looking at compounds that modulate O-linked N-acetylglucosaminidase (O-GlcNAcase) an enzyme that is believed to be involved in the development of Alzheimer's and potentially other disorders. Under the terms of the agreement, Alectos is eligible to receive a total of $289 million through an undisclosed upfront fee, research, development and regulatory milestones, plus tiered royalty payments on sales of any products resulting from this collaboration.

Darryle Schoepp, head of neuroscience at Merck Research Laboratories, said that “effective medicines to treat the devastating consequences of Alzheimer's disease are greatly needed, and we are committed to achieve that goal”. He added that the Alectos pact “represents a truly innovative and promising new therapeutic approach”.

Ernest McEachern, chief executive of the privately-held Vancouver-based firm, said that he is pleased Merck likes the look of this “potentially new, disease-modifying therapeutic approach for patients affected by Alzheimer's”. He added that “this is an important validation of our scientific leadership in this area and we look forward to working with Merck to realize the full value of this novel mechanism for a range of neuroscience disorders”.