Novartis AG Ramps Up Alzheimer's Drug Pursuit as Rivals Fail

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Novartis AG (NOVN) plans to ramp up its research in Alzheimer’s disease, a potential $20 billion market lacking a major contender and littered with three high-profile drug failures in the past year alone. “This remains high on our radar, with high unmet medical need,” Tim Wright, who heads the Basel, Switzerland-based company’s drug development, said on a conference call arranged by Sanford C. Bernstein & Co. analyst Tim Anderson in April. Novartis didn’t respond to a request for comment on its Alzheimer’s research. Novartis would be racing to catch up with Roche Holding AG (ROG) and Merck & Co. (MRK), which are conducting human tests on treatments for Alzheimer’s, the most common dementia illness. Drugmakers are vying to find a way to slow the disease, which may affect 65 million people by 2030. The field is marked with failures, including a study Baxter International Inc. (BAX) released this month in which its Gammagard drug didn’t help patients.

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