Neoprobe shares rise after licensing patient imaging solution from AstraZeneca Print E-mail
By M.E.Garza   
Tuesday, 13 December 2011 07:21
Shares of Neoprobe Corporation (Amex: NEOP) rose in after hours trading after the firm announced that they have in-licensed the worldwide exclusive rights from AstraZeneca to the late-stage radiopharmaceutical imaging candidate, AZD4694, for aiding the diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease (AD).

Neoprobe shares are currently trading -29.07 % from their 52-Wk High ($ 3.44 ) and some of the upward price activity may have been the result of short covering since 11.3 of the firm's roughly 108 million oustanding shares are short. On Monday, before this news was announced, we noted a 76.78%  daily short sale volume in the stock (daily aggregate reported share volume of executed short sale trades during regular trading hours and the daily aggregate reported share volume of all executed trades during regular trading hours).

“To gain the recognition of AstraZeneca through a rigorous licensing process and secure such a promising late-stage imaging asset is a strong endorsement of our development capability and focus,” commented Neoprobe’s Executive Vice President and Chief Business Officer, Thomas Tulip, Ph.D. “We believe AZD4694 has a compelling global commercial outlook and should beneficially facilitate development of more effective disease-modifying therapies for Alzheimer´s disease. This potentially powerful second-generation agent with apparent best-in-class properties has demonstrated strong performance attributes. We believe AZD4694 imaging may be quite useful as an adjunct measure in the diagnosis of this large, growing disease and may allow patients to seek earlier, and therefore potentially more effective, treatment options.”

AZD4694 is a precision radiopharmaceutical candidate for use in the imaging and evaluation of patients with signs or symptoms of cognitive impairment such as AD. It binds to Beta-amyloid deposits in the brain that can then be imaged in positron emission tomography scans. Amyloid plaque pathology is a required feature of AD diagnosis and the presence of amyloid pathology is a supportive feature for diagnosis of probable AD. Patients who are negative for amyloid pathology do not have AD.

“The discovery and development of new treatments for Alzheimer’s disease is a top priority for AstraZeneca. This alliance couples Neoprobe’s expertise in diagnostic imaging with our own expertise in the discovery and development of innovative medicines, and will further expand our ability to evaluate new treatments for Alzheimer’s disease in the future,” said Christer Köhler, Vice President and Head of CNS & Pain Innovative Medicines at AstraZeneca.

“New Alzheimer’s disease imaging agents are potentially powerful tools in aiding the diagnosis of AD and evaluation of new drugs aiming to modify amyloid plaque levels and possibly alter disease progression. Having worked in the development of first-generation agents, early data suggests that AZD4694 may have imaging performance and convenience attributes making it a best-in-class prospect for accurate and earlier disease definition,” said Dr. Kenneth Marek, Chief Executive Officer and Co-Founder of Molecular NeuroImaging (MNI). MNI is a world leader in neuroscience and radiopharmaceutical imaging for the diagnosis and monitoring of neurological and neuropsychiatric disorders. MNI will be a key collaborator with Neoprobe in the clinical development of AZD4694.

Financial terms of the in-licensing agreement include an upfront payment of $5 million to AstraZeneca and a series of contingent milestone payments including up to $6.5 million in potential payments based on the achievement of clinical development and regulatory filing milestones and up to additional $11 million due following the receipt of regulatory approvals and the initiation of commercial sales. In addition, Neoprobe will pay AstraZeneca royalties on net sales of the approved product. AstraZeneca retains the right to use AZD4694 in clinical trials to support development of potential treatments for Alzheimer’s disease.

“Licensing this important asset is consistent with the growth strategy to build out our precision radiopharmaceutical pipeline and transform Neoprobe into a leader in the development and commercialization of targeted diagnostic agents,” stated Dr. Mark Pykett, Neoprobe’s President and CEO. “We are encouraged to have secured a high-quality, late-stage asset from a world-class partner for a large and growing disease in a patient community with significant unmet medical need. We are pleased to have structured an agreement for an asset that we believe will return substantial value to our shareholders and where a significant part of the future compensation is based on the product’s approval and ultimately product sales. We look forward to collaborating with AstraZeneca on the progress of this agent and assisting them in the development of their Alzheimer’s disease therapeutics.”

Neoprobe Corp is a biomedical company focused on enhancing patient care and improving patient outcome by meeting the critical intraoperative diagnostic information needs of physicians and therapeutic treatment needs of patients. Its primary area of focus is in improving cancer surgery outcomes by using its market-leading gamma detection devices in combination with radiopharmaceutical agents also referred to as tracing or targeting agents. The company was incorporated in 1983, with a mission to develop and commercialize innovative biomedical products that enhance oncology patient care and improve oncology patient outcome.

Neoprobe's investigational activities are focused on three particular developmental product initiatives: Lymphoseek(TM), RIGScan® CR and Activated Cellular Therapy (ACT). Its Lymphoseek is a proprietary radioactive tracing agent being developed for use in connection with gamma detection devices in a surgical procedure referred to as Intraoperative Lymphatic Mapping (ILM). Its RIGS system combines a hand-held gamma radiation detection probe, proprietary radiolabeled cancer-specific targeting agents, and patented surgical methods to provide surgeons with real-time information to locate tumor deposits not detectable by conventional methods, and to assist in more thorough removal of the cancer. The RIGScan® is designed to assist the surgeon in the more thorough removal of the cancer, thereby leading to improved surgical treatment of the patient. The targeting agents used in the RIGS process are monoclonal antibodies, labeled with a radioactive isotope that emits low energy gamma rays. It has also been collaborating in the development of an Activated Cellular Therapy (ACT) that uses the RIGS system to surgically locate specialized lymph node cells that can be grown and activated in a proprietary procedure.

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