Page last updated at 06:41 GMT, Wednesday, 29 October 2008

Daffodil drug's major investment

How daffodils are being used to help combat Alzheimer's disease

A company harvesting a substance from daffodils used to fight Alzheimer's disease has landed 850,000 worth of investment to go into full production.

Alzeim, from near Brecon, Powys, farms daffodils for a compound called galantamine, which slows the progress of the disease.

The money has come from Welsh Assembly Government investment company Finance Wales and private investors.

The iconic Welsh flowers are grown on the hillsides of the Black Mountains.

Previously galantamine was only found among wild snowdrops in Bulgaria and China.

The plan now is to sell the substance to drug companies.

Alzeim Limited said a drug using galantamine was free on the NHS in Scotland, but was only prescribed privately in Wales and England because of its cost.

But the company said it hoped it had developed ways of producing galantamine at a low enough cost to persuade the National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE) to put it on the standard prescription list.

Kevin Stephens, chief executive of Alzeim, said: "The company has achieved much with very little cash so far, relying on the support of a few dedicated people, especially Professor Trevor Walker.

"The fundraising proves their vision and allows us to move forward on a sound commercial basis."

Alzeim, which is based in the village of Talgarth, held trials in 2006 about whether daffodils could be farmed in the Black Mountains.

It said the substance used to treat Alzheimer's was found in greater quantities in daffodils grown in the mountains than on those grown in lowland areas.

Nearly 850,000 to develop the business has come from Finance Wales, Cardiff-based Gambit Corporate Finance and a number of individual investors.

The money will help Alzeim produce more daffodils and galantamine on site in Talgarth.

Rhian Pugh of Finance Wales said "committed research" had led Alzeim to push the boundaries.

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