EMD Serono, Inc., an affiliate of Merck KGaA, Darmstadt Germany, and Fast Forward, LLC, a not-for-profit organization established by the National Multiple Sclerosis Society to accelerate the development of discoveries into new or improved therapies, announced the first four recipients of funding designed to speed research advances in mutually selected high potential areas of MS research. The awards total nearly $1.5 million. Two are allocated to development programs which are available to for-profit entities and two are allocated to innovation projects, available to university-based investigators and seed-stage for-profit entities. EMD Serono and Fast Forward are currently soliciting proposals (Request for Proposals – RFPs) for the next round of funding available through this collaboration.
The focus of the first RFPs, issued in 2009, was central nervous system (CNS) neuroprotection and/or repair strategies; these priority areas were determined by a joint steering committee (JSC) comprising Fast Forward staff and representatives from EMD Serono and Merck KGaA. As part of the current collaboration agreement with Fast Forward, EMD Serono provided the majority of funding for the research awards, with Fast Forward contributing 10 percent of the financing to round out the awards disseminated from each of the two funds. The following are the recipients from the Accelerating Commercial Development fund:
• Innate Therapeutics Limited, Auckland, New Zealand (Project Director – Simon Wilkinson) will receive $550,000 over 15 months to conduct a phase IIa clinical trial in patients with progressive forms of MS using MIS416, a naturally occurring agent derived from bacteria.
• Cognosci Inc., Research Triangle Park, NC (Project Director – Feng Qiao Li, PhD) will receive $330,000 over 12 months for the efficacy testing of COG112, a molecule that mimics actions of the cholesterol transporting protein, ApoE. In the funded studies, the company will evaluate the ability of COG112 to promote myelin repair in the central nervous system (CNS) in laboratory models of MS.
Additionally, the following organizations will receive financing from the Accelerating Innovation Fund:
• CenTRion Therapeutics Limited, University of Greenwich, UK, (Project Director – Michael Leach, PhD) will receive $275,000 over 12 months for studies with compounds, related to lamotrigine, an approved epilepsy therapy, which some studies suggest also can protect nerve cells from damage. CenTRion will conduct research to determine the safety and efficacy of its original neuroprotective compounds in laboratory models of MS.
• Oregon Health & Science University, Portland, OR, (Project Director – Lawrence Sherman, PhD) will receive $275,000 for the screening and efficacy of small molecule inhibitors of hyaluronidase, an enzyme that dissolves hyaluronic acid – a complex sugar molecule that accumulates in MS lesions. Dr. Sherman’s group has found that by-products resulting from breakdown of hyaluronic acid prevent myelin repair. This project will assess whether myelin repair blockage can be overcome by inhibiting the activity of hyaluronidase.
“We are pleased to announce the 2009 funding recipients who will work to advance promising early- and late-stage projects in MS that could ultimately help patients,” said Bernhard Kirschbaum, PhD, Executive Vice President, Global Research and Development at Merck Serono, an affiliate of Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany. “EMD Serono is committed to advancing scientific and medical knowledge and to furthering key research that has the potential to help people living with MS.”
“The promise of current research to change the MS landscape is exciting, and it fuels the collaboration between Fast Forward and EMD Serono in advancing science in key areas of focus to speed the development of new therapies and innovations to benefit people living with MS. We are proud to be able to provide resources for those working to end MS and look forward to the seeing the results stemming from these projects,” said Dr. Timothy Coetzee, President of Fast Forward.
EMD Serono and Fast Forward entered into a two-year worldwide agreement in March 2009 to accelerate the development of treatments for MS. The collaboration, which supports early-stage clinical development projects with biotech companies as well as programs with individual researchers and academic institutions, has the potential to be extended for an additional three years. The RFP process for 2010 is currently underway with a goal of approving the next round of recipients expected in December.
Date: May 5, 2010
Source: EMD Serono, Inc.