While beta amyloid deposits have long been implicated in the pathogenesis of Alzheimer's disease, the pharmaceutical industry has lacked an obvious target to prevent such deposits. Last week, Amgen Inc. went public with its identification of a protein likely to be the beta-secretase enzyme, which is believed to be involved in the formation of beta amyloid. AMGN thus may have its target, although it is not clear whether it has a leg up on the competition.

Beta amyloid deposits are thought to form following secretion or release of beta amyloid peptides from neurons in the brain. Such peptides are derived from a larger protein,