Published: Sunday 15 January 1995

For the victims of Alzheimer's disease, Japan's Eisai Co brings good tidings. It has teamed up with the American Pfizer Inc to develop a drug to treat the disease. The medicine, to be manufactured from Eisai's compound E2020, is currently in phase II trials in Japan. It functions by increasing the levels of acetylcholine, the chemical which transmits messages between never cells. The compound is in phase III development in the US and Europe.

A "hybrid electric car" is now in the offing. Developed by Canada's Hydro-Quebec, it boasts of an emission-reducing and energy-increasing technology. The hybrid traction system, designed by researcher Pierre Couture, uses high-efficiency batteries to drive electric motors in the car's wheels. The conventional gearbox, differential, drive shaft and gasoline engine are out. Only a small gasoline engine recharges the batteries. The computerised car makes significant material savings.

The rival US aerospace giants, Boeing Co and Mcdonnell Douglas Corp, have joined hands to usher in a commercial space exploration era. They plan to design and develop a reusable launch vehicle replacing the previous aging fleet. "They have teamed up to meet an urgent national need. The focus of this is solving the nation's problem on access to the space, and reducing the costs," says William Gaubatz, programme manager.

The team will bid for a series of multimillion-dollar government contracts awarded by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

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