How Nestlé and AC Immune are fighting Alzheimer’s disease
“…committed to enhancing people’s lives by offering tastier and healthier food and beverage choices at all stages of life and at all times of the day,” reads Nestlé’s company bio. As one of the world’s largest food and beverage companies, it is interesting to see a name such as this in health.
But, it’s true. In a recent move closer towards the health care industry, Nestlé’s health division team—the Nestlé Institute of Health Sciences (NIHS)—has signed a research collaboration agreement with the Swiss biotech company AC Immune to develop an Alzheimer’s disease diagnostic test, according to our sister publication Healthcare Global.
Click here to read the September 2015 edition of Business Review USA!
The NIHS is part of Nestlé’s global R&D network and performs fundamental research for the understanding of health and disease and for developing science-based targeted nutritional solutions.
The role of NIHS within Nestlé is to drive the development of innovative nutritional concepts and products that will benefit consumers worldwide through outstanding scientific and technological research whilst strengthening Nestlé’s position as the world’s leading nutrition, health and wellness company.
According to the Alzheimer’s Association, Alzheimer’s is the most common form of dementia. With no cure, the disease is the sixth leading cause of death in the United States.
RELATED TOPIC: How Google and Novartis are shaping health tech
Through the partnership, AC Immune will offer Nestlé its expertise in biology and pathology of the Tau protein (abundantly found within the central nervous system) with its laboratory capacity to support the research program. The NIHS will provide its technology platform for antibody detection, in order to identify and validate an in vitro diagnostic test for the highly sensitive detection of the tau protein in cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) and blood plasma.
AC Immune, which already has established ties with Roche and Johnson & Johnson in drug research, said on Wednesday it would develop a minimally invasive diagnostic assay for Tau with the Nestle Institute of Health Sciences, reported Reuters.
RELATED TOPIC: Is your venture capital on the digital health bandwagon?
This is Nestlé’s second medical deal in a week and reveals the progression towards the more profitable medical field as sales of processed foods slow in many markets. Over the last two years, Nestlé has been investing in the market for health care products that have higher margins than the coffee, soups and sweets it is generally known for.
The collaboration between Nestlé and AC Immune shows promise, as globally there are already 44 million individuals diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. Finding an effective test to diagnose Alzheimer’s in its very early stages is considered to be one of the most pressing needs in the treatment of the disease.
How innovation is transforming government
According to Washington Technology’s Top 100 list, Leidos is the largest IT provider to the government. But as Lieutenant General William J. Bender explains, “that barely scratches the surface” of the company’s portfolio and drive for innovation.
Bender, who spent three and a half decades in the military, including a stint as the U.S. Air Force’s Chief Information Officer (CIO), has seen action in the field and in technology during that time, and it runs in the family. Bender’s son is an F-16 instructor pilot. So it stands to reason Bender Senior intends to ensure a thriving technological base for the U.S. Air Force. “What we’re really doing here is transforming the federal government from the industrial age into the information age and doing it hand-in-hand with industry,” he says.
The significant changes that have taken place in the wider technology world are precisely the capabilities Leidos is trying to pilot the U.S. Air Force through. It boils down to developing cyberspace as a new domain of battle, globally connected and constantly challenged by the threat of cybersecurity attacks.
“We recognize the importance of the U.S. Air Force’s missions,” says Bender, “and making sure they achieve those missions. We sit side-by-side with the air combat command, intelligence surveillance, and reconnaissance infrastructure across the Air Force. There are multiple large programs where the Air Force is partnering with Leidos to ensure their mission is successfully accomplished 24/7/365. In this company, we’re all in on making sure there’s no drop in capability.”
That partnership relies on a shared understanding of delivering successful national security outcomes, really understanding the mission at hand, and Leidos’ long-standing relationship of over 50 years with the federal government.
To look at where technology is going, Bender thinks it is important to look back at the last 10 to 15 years. “What we’ve seen is a complete shift in how technology gets developed,” he says. “It used to be that the government invested aggressively in research and development, and some of those technologies, once they were launched in a military context, would find their way into the commercial space. That has shifted almost a hundred percent now, where the bulk of the research and development dollars and the development of tech-explicit technologies takes place in the commercial sector.”
“There’s a long-standing desire to adopt commercial technology into defense applications, but it’s had a hard time crossing the ‘valley of death’ [government slang for commercial technologies and partnerships that fail to effectively transition into government missions]. Increasingly we’re able to do that. We need to look at open architectures and open systems for a true plug-and-play capability. Instead of buying it now and trying to guess what it’s going to be used for 12 years from now, it should be evolving iteratively.”