AC Immune will provide the research expertise.

(Bloomberg) — Nestle SA, the world’s largest food company, formed a research alliance with a Swiss drug developer to work on a test that could diagnose Alzheimer’s disease in its early stages.

AC Immune SA, based in Lausanne, will provide expertise to develop a diagnostic test, according to a statement released Wednesday. It’s based on an antibody technology that originated at Prometheus Laboratories Inc., which Nestle acquired in 2011.

Nestle has been building a business that would treat chronic disease through nutrition as the food company seeks new growth markets after cornering leading positions in categories such as bottled water, pet-food and soluble coffee. There are 9.9 million new cases of Alzheimer’s each year, and the cost of dementia has increased to $818 billion from $604 billion in 2010, AC Immune said.

“Early diagnosis is critical,” Ed Baetge, head of the Nestle Institute of Health Sciences, said in the statement. “Our overarching goal is to develop nutritional approaches and technologies that help people maintain or reestablish their cognitive vigor.”

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