Pharmas Market with Mike Huckman

Alzheimer's Blood Test: Would You Take It?

Cat scan image of human brain

This morning on "Squawk Box" and "Squawk on the Street" I reported on a new study showing that a simple blood test might predict whether you will develop Alzheimer's Disease. The report, which appears in the scientific,peer-reviewed journal "Nature Medicine"says that the patent-pending test developed by the privately-held company Satoris was 90% accurate at pegging future Alzheimer's patients on average two-and-a-half years before being diagnosed.

Over the weekend I spoke by phone with Patrick Lynn, the CEO of Satoris(rooted in the Japanese/Buddhist word, satori, which means "enlightenment"), about what this means for his company and the test. And before this opens the floodgates of my inbox for PR-people who want to pitch stories on privately-held companies, I want to make it clear that this story is an exception to our rule.

Typically, I do not do stories on companies that are not publicly traded. It's part of our editorial mandate at CNBC. But, in this case, the data were so compelling and the idea of an Alzheimer's test potentially so groundbreaking, that we decided to cover the story. In addition, the company and a leading, independent Alzheimer's expert told us that if the test comes to market that it would help identify ideal candidates for the dozens of ongoing Alzheimer's drug clinical trials at publicly-traded pharmaceutical and biotech companies--Lilly, Wyeth, Memory Pharmaceuticals and Elan, just to name a few.

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Lynn told me that it's been challenging raising venture capital for the project because many investors respond, "So What?" In other words, what would patients do with the information if they tested positive? None of the four Alzheimer's drugs on the market today from Pfizer, Forest Labs, Johnson & Johnson and Novartis stops the progression of the disease. Nonetheless, Lynn believes "early diagnosis is important" in that it might be helpful for patients to step up their life planning--personal and financial--and to volunteer for those clinical trials.

Testing for Alzheimer's

Plus, as a top doc told us, many patients might also want to start exercising their brain more and/or using any number of suspected preventatives--some of which he called, "voodoo" (i.e. a diet heavy in curry, taking statins, etc.)--to try to stave off the disease. On the other hand, the knowledge that one might be predisposed to Alzheimer's could push some people over the edge and lead to tragic consequences.

Lynn says the next step is to make the test more widely available through what's called research testing early next year and to possibly get it on the market by 2009. He told me the company has some well-known venture capitalists and "angels" who've invested in the company, but that he wasn't at liberty to name them. He hopes the publication of the test results will give Satoris and the technology more cred and help with VC funding. He also told me the company is in discussions with more than one pharmaceutical company about co-developing the test, but again, no names.

Of course, this raises the question: If an Alzheimer's blood test were available, would you get it?Click here and take the poll.

Questions?  Comments?