Merck Serono launches first biotech spinout from Geneva wreckage

Merck Serono has orchestrated the first biotech spinoff to come out of Geneva since announcing plans to shutter its big R&D facility there. Prexton Therapeutics will get about $2.5 million in seed cash, a portfolio of Parkinson's treatments in early-stage development and a team of Big Pharma scientists who will set out to see if they can make it in drug development on their own.

"We are really proud and satisfied that this first project is now coming to life. Through such initiatives, not only will we be able to maintain jobs in the Geneva area but also unique expertise," said Merck Serono Chairman François Naef. "The newly founded company will be headed by a highly experienced scientist and entrepreneur, which gives us a lot of confidence in the success of Prexton Therapeutics."

Merck Serono agreed to fund a group of spinoffs with €30 million ($47.1 million) as it proceeds with plans to chop 500 jobs and relocate up to 750. Prexton is taking preclinical treatments that target the metabotropic glutamate receptors mGluR3 and mGluR4 for Parkinson's.

"Metabotropic glutamate receptors (mGluR) have been shown recently to be a key target to tackle the onset of Parkinson's disease. Therefore, modulating their response is certainly among the most promising ways to develop future treatments for one of the most severe brain diseases," said François Conquet, founder and CEO of Prexton Therapeutics. "I have long been interested in the potential of mGluR-targeted therapies and now there is a great opportunity to further develop Merck Serono's programs in Parkinson's disease and offer new hopes to patients." 

- here's the press release