Collaboration to focus on research and development of antibodies for the treatment of systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE)
Merck Serono, a division of Merck, Darmstadt, Germany, and the Feinstein Institute for Medical Research, the research division of the North Shore-Long Island Jewish Health System in New York, announced today that they will collaborate to develop antibodies for the treatment of systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE). Under the terms of the agreement, Merck Serono will fund a research program at the Feinstein Institute and be responsible for the development and commercialization of the antibodies resulting from the collaboration. The program will focus on the use of antibodies to inhibit the action of certain proteins responsible for inflammation in the pathogenesis of SLE. Further details of the agreement and financial terms are not disclosed.
"There is a very high unmet medical need for novel therapies to treat systemic lupus erythematosus. Over the last fifty years, only one new treatment option has been approved to treat the disease," said Dr Bernhard Kirschbaum, Executive Vice President, Head of Global Research and Early Development for Merck Serono. "The Feinstein Institute is at the forefront of translational research in inflammatory and autoimmune diseases and this is a rare opportunity for our researchers to collaborate with key experts in the field of systemic lupus erythematosus to develop alternative therapeutic approaches, and further strengthen our research capabilities in the field of immunology."
"We are delighted to collaborate with Merck Serono to develop therapeutics for lupus with the potential to treat the underlying causes of the disease," said Betty Diamond, MD, Head of the Center for Autoimmune & Musculoskeletal Diseases at the Feinstein Institute. "The resources of Merck Serono will be an important addition to our efforts to provide new antibody therapeutics targeted at inflammatory processes. These mechanisms are critical to solving the problem of lupus and many other autoimmune diseases. It is gratifying to ally Feinstein research discoveries with strong pharmaceutical interest. Merck Serono is an ideal partner in this regard," added Kevin J. Tracey, MD, President of the Feinstein Institute.
The pathogenesis of SLE is multifactorial, including genetic and environmental factors and abnormalities of both the innate and the adaptive immune system. Merck Serono is currently investigating atacicept in phase II of clinical development, for the treatment of SLE. Atacicept targets B cells which are thought to have a role in the pathogenesis of autoimmune diseases such as SLE, and inhibits their development. The collaboration with the Feinstein Institute will allow Merck Serono to further strengthen its research into alternative mechanisms for the treatment of SLE.
About systemic systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE)
SLE is a chronic inflammatory disease, where the immune system attacks the body's own tissues and organs. SLE is the most common form of lupus and can result in swollen, painful joints, skin rash, extreme fatigue and kidney damage. The disease is typically diagnosed in patients between 20 and 40 years of age, more often in women. The number of patients with systemic lupus erythematosus is estimated at more than 600.000 worldwide.
 Systemic Lupus Erythematosus, Decision Resources. January 2011
About The Feinstein Institute for Medical Research
Headquartered in Manhasset, NY, The Feinstein Institute for Medical Research is home to international scientific leaders in Parkinson's disease, Alzheimer's disease, psychiatric disorders, rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, sepsis, human genetics, pulmonary hypertension, leukemia, neuroimmunology and medicinal chemistry. The Feinstein Institute, part of the North Shore-LIJ Health System, ranks in the top 5th percentile of all National Institutes of Health grants awarded to research centers. For more information visit http://www.FeinsteinInstitute.org
About Merck Serono
Merck Serono is the biopharmaceutical division of Merck KGaA. With headquarters in Darmstadt, Germany, Merck Serono offers leading brands in 150 countries to help patients with cancer, multiple sclerosis, infertility, endocrine and metabolic disorders as well as cardiovascular diseases. In the United States and Canada, EMD Serono operates as a separately incorporated subsidiary of Merck Serono.
Merck Serono discovers, develops, manufactures and markets prescription medicines of both chemical and biological origin in specialist indications. We have an enduring commitment to deliver novel therapies in our core focus areas of oncology, neurology and immunology.
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 approx. 40,000 employees in 67 countries. Its success is characterized by innovations from entrepreneurial employees. Merck's operating activities come under 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 http://www.merckserono.com or http://www.merckgroup.com