EMD Serono, Inc. and the National MS Society Announce Recipients of Funding for Multiple Sclerosis Research

- EMD Serono and the National MS Society through Fast Forward provide funding of up to $1.3 million in 2013 to accelerate early-stage research in MS

Dec 17, 2013, 09:00 ET from EMD Serono, Inc.

ROCKLAND, Mass. and NEW YORK, Dec. 17, 2013 /PRNewswire/ -- EMD Serono, Inc., a subsidiary of Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany, and the National Multiple Sclerosis Society through Fast Forward  today announced the fourth 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 $1.3 million and will be distributed from the Accelerating Innovation and Accelerating Commercial Development Funds created by EMD Serono and the National MS Society through Fast Forward to encourage early-stage drug discovery for MS. The Accelerating Innovation Program is open to academic institutions, non-profit research organizations and seed-stage for-profit commercial organizations. The other fund in the collaboration, the Accelerating Commercial Development Program is open to early-stage for-profit commercial organizations that have achieved Series A or comparable investment funding. 

EMD Serono and the National MS Society through 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:

  • University of California, San Diego School of Medicine  (Principal Researcher: Joan Heller Brown, Ph.D.) will receive $285,000 over 18 months to perform research to identify a subset of G-protein coupled receptors (GPCRs) that activate astrocyte proliferation and inflammatory pathways through coupling to the G protein Gα12/13 and activation of RhoA.
  • Emory University School of Medicine (Principal Researcher: Randy Hall, Ph.D.) will receive $471,333 over 21 months to explore the importance of two orphan G protein-coupled receptors in the control of myelination.
  • Euroscreen SA (Principal Researcher: Sebastien Hannedouche, Ph.D.) will receive $501,657 over 12 months for the identification of ligands for up to five "orphan" GPCRs which may play pathogenic or protective roles in MS.

"We are pleased to announce the 2013 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 Annalisa Jenkins, Global Head of Research and Development at Merck Serono, a division of Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany. "Our ongoing collaboration with the National MS Society through Fast Forward reflects our sustained commitment to leveraging internal as well as external expertise in furthering scientific excellence in MS."

EMD Serono and the National MS Society entered into their collaboration in March 2009. As part of the up to $19 million collaborative agreement, EMD Serono provides the majority of funding for the research awards, with the National MS Society 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," said Dr. Timothy Coetzee, Chief Advocacy, Services and Research Officer at the National MS Society. "We are pleased to have the opportunity to advance research through the continued collaboration with 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, an unpredictable, often disabling disease of the central nervous system, interrupts the flow of information within the brain, and between the brain and body.

About the National Multiple Sclerosis Society and Fast Forward, LLC

The Society mobilizes people and resources to drive research for a cure and to address the challenges of everyone affected by MS.  To fulfill this mission, the Society funds cutting-edge research, drives change through advocacy, facilitates professional education, collaborates with MS organizations around the world, and provides programs and services designed to help people with MS and their families move their lives forward.  In 2013 alone, through its home office and 50-state network of chapters, the Society invested $48.3 million to support 380 new and ongoing research projects around the world. The Society is dedicated to achieving a world free of MS. Join the movement at www.nationalMSsociety.org

Fast Forward, LLC was established by the National Multiple Sclerosis Society as part of a comprehensive approach to MS research and treatment, focusing on accelerating commercial development of promising research discoveries.  Through Fast Forward, the Society connects university-based MS research with private-sector drug development and funds 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 or more information, please visit www.nationalmssociety.org/fast-forward//index.aspx

About EMD Serono, Inc.

EMD Serono, Inc., a subsidiary of Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany, is a specialized biopharmaceutical company dedicated to developing therapies with groundbreaking potential. The company has strong market positions in neurology, endocrinology and in reproductive health. In addition, EMD Serono has an enduring commitment to solve the unsolvable, with state-of-the-art science dedicated to developing new therapies in our core focus areas of neurology, oncology, immuno-oncology and immunology. With a long-standing history of industry expertise and a dedication to shape the future of healthcare, the company'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, Darmstadt, Germany

Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany, is a global pharmaceutical, chemical and life science company with total revenues of € 11.2 billion in 2012, a history that began in 1668, and a future shaped by approx. 38,000 employees in 66 countries. Its success is characterized by innovations from entrepreneurial employees. Merck KGaA's operating activities come under the umbrella of Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany, in which the Merck family holds an approximately 70% interest and shareholders own the remaining approximately 30%. In 1917 the U.S. subsidiary Merck & Co. was expropriated and has been an independent company ever since.

Worldwide there are two separate companies that bear the name "Merck", the original Merck KGaA from Darmstadt, Germany, the oldest pharmaceutical and chemical company in the world, and the pharmaceutical company Merck & Co. in the United States. The rights to the name and trademark MERCK in North America (USA and Canada) lie with Merck & Co., the former U.S. subsidiary of Merck, whereas Merck KGaA operates in North America under the umbrella brand EMD. In the rest of the world, Merck KGaA owns the rights to the Merck name and trademark. This press release was distributed by Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany.

SOURCE EMD Serono, Inc.