EMD Serono, Inc. and Fast Forward, LLC Announce Recipients of Funding for Multiple Sclerosis Research

- EMD Serono and Fast Forward provide funding of up to $1.4 million in 2012 to accelerate early-stage research in MS

Dec 20, 2012, 08:00 ET from EMD Serono, Inc.

ROCKLAND, Mass. and NEW YORK, Dec. 20, 2012 /PRNewswire/ -- EMD Serono, Inc., a subsidiary of Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany, and Fast Forward LLC, a wholly-owned subsidiary of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, today announced the third group of recipients to receive funding through their collaboration, which is designed to accelerate innovation and commercial development of multiple sclerosis (MS) therapies.

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The awards total approximately $1.4 million and will be distributed from the Accelerating Commercial Development Fund created by EMD Serono and Fast Forward to encourage early-stage drug discovery for MS. The Accelerating Commercial Development Fund is open to early-stage for-profit commercial organizations that have achieved Series A or comparable investment funding.  The other fund in the collaboration, the Accelerating Innovation Fund, is open to academic institutions, non-profit research organizations, and seed-stage for-profit commercial organizations.

EMD Serono and Fast Forward distributed a call for proposals to fund projects directed towards the development of therapies to prevent, treat or reverse nervous system damage in MS. These priority research areas were determined by a joint steering committee comprised of Fast Forward staff and representatives from EMD Serono and Merck KGaA.

The following organizations will receive funding:

Under the Accelerating Commercial Development Program:

  • ACADIA Pharmaceuticals / University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) (Principal Researchers: Roger Olsson, Ph.D. and Rhonda Voskuhl, M.D.) will receive $545,380 over 12 months to perform research to identify estrogen receptor beta agonist as a potential treatment of MS.
  • Vicore Pharma AB / Uppsala University and Charite - Universitatsmedizin Berlin (Principal Researchers: Professor Mats Larhed and Dr. Ulrike Steckelings) will receive $531,300 over 18 months to perform research to identify angiotensin AT2-receptor agonists as a potential treatment of MS.
  • Axxam SpA (Principal Researcher: Chiara Liberati, Ph.D.) will receive $402,000 over 12 months to identify antagonists of the chloride intracellular channel 1 expressed by activated microglia, which could form the basis for the development of potential new treatments for neurodegeneration in MS.

"We are pleased to announce the 2012 funding recipients whose work has the potential to broaden our knowledge and understanding of MS, and hopefully, result in new treatment options for people living with this disease," said Bernhard Kirschbaum, PhD, Executive Vice President, Global Research and Development at Merck Serono, a division of Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany. "Our ongoing collaboration with Fast Forward reflects our sustained commitment to leveraging internal as well as external expertise in furthering scientific excellence in MS."

EMD Serono and Fast Forward entered into an initial two-year, worldwide agreement in March 2009, and recently extended the collaboration. As part of the up to $19 million collaborative agreement with Fast Forward, EMD Serono provides the majority of funding for the research awards, with Fast Forward contributing 10 percent of the total financing of the awards disseminated from each of the two funds.

"Advancing new treatments for people with MS requires continuing research and discovery in order to find new and better treatments," said Dr. Timothy Coetzee, Chief Research Officer at the National MS Society and Fast Forward. "We are pleased to have the opportunity to advance research through the continued collaboration between Fast Forward and EMD Serono. We remain committed to being a driving force of research and treatment options to stop MS, restore function, and end MS forever, and we look forward to learning more from the results of these innovative projects."

About multiple sclerosis
Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a chronic, inflammatory condition of the central nervous system and is the most common, non-traumatic, disabling neurological disease in young adults. It is estimated that approximately two million people have MS worldwide. While symptoms can vary, the most common symptoms of MS include blurred vision, numbness or tingling in the limbs and problems with strength and coordination. The relapsing forms of MS are the most common.

About Fast Forward, LLC
Fast Forward, LLC, established by the National Multiple Sclerosis Society as part of a comprehensive approach to MS research and treatment, focuses on speeding promising research discoveries towards commercial drug development. Fast Forward accelerates the development of treatments for MS by connecting university-based MS research with private-sector drug development and by funding small biotechnology/pharmaceutical companies to develop innovative new MS therapies and repurpose FDA-approved drugs as new treatments for MS. For more information, please visit www.fastforward.org.

About the National Multiple Sclerosis Society
The National MS Society addresses the challenges of each person affected by MS by funding cutting-edge research, driving change through advocacy, facilitating professional education, collaborating with MS organizations around the world, and providing programs and services designed to help people with MS and their families move their lives forward. The Society is dedicated to achieving a world free of MS. Join the movement at www.nationalMSsociety.org.

About EMD Serono, Inc.
EMD Serono, Inc., a subsidiary of Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany, is a leader in the US biopharmaceutical arena, integrating cutting-edge science with unparalleled patient support systems to improve people's lives. The company has strong market positions in neurodegenerative diseases, endocrinology and in reproductive health. In addition, EMD Serono is growing its expertise and presence in the area of oncology, with more than 15 projects currently in development. With a clear focus on the patient and a leadership presence in the biopharmaceutical industry, EMD Serono's US footprint continues to grow, with approximately 1,000 employees around the country and fully integrated commercial, clinical and research operations in the company's home state of Massachusetts.

For more information, please visit www.emdserono.com

About Merck KGaA
Merck is a global pharmaceutical and chemical company with total revenues of €10.3 billion in 2011, a history that began in 1668, and a future shaped by approximately 40,000 employees in 67 countries. Its success is characterized by innovations from entrepreneurial employees. Merck's operating activities come the umbrella of Merck KGaA, in which the Merck family holds an approximately 70% interest and free shareholders own the remaining approximately 30%. In 1917 the U.S. subsidiary Merck & Co. was expropriated and has been an independent company ever since.

For more information, please visit www.merckserono.com or www.merckgroup.com

SOURCE EMD Serono, Inc.