EMD Serono, Inc. and Fast Forward, LLC Commit $3 Million in 2009 To Early Stage Drug Development For Multiple Sclerosis
• Proposals sought from academic institutions and seed-to-early stage companies developing novel therapeutic approaches to prevent, treat or reverse nervous system damage in multiple sclerosis

 

Rockland, MA/New York, NY, May 1, 2009 – EMD Serono, Inc., an affiliate of Merck KGaA, Darmstadt Germany, and Fast Forward, LLC, a wholly-owned subsidiary of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, today announced a commitment of $3 million in 2009 to support innovative early-stage projects directed towards the development of therapies to prevent treat, or reverse nervous system damage in multiple sclerosis (MS). This is the first ‘Request for Proposals’ (RFP) issued under the auspices of a multi-year collaboration between Fast Forward and Merck KGaA to accelerate innovation and commercial development of MS therapies. Merck KGaA will provide up to $19 million in total funding.

“Our goal is to accelerate the discovery and commercial development of innovative MS therapies and bring these new and improved treatments to the people with MS who need them,” reported Dr. Timothy Coetzee, President of Fast Forward. “A unique feature of this RFP is that EMD Serono and Merck KGaA will be working with award recipients to help them to aggressively move their research programs forward.”

This RFP will complement Fast Forward’s ongoing research funding programs wherein it has established a strong presence in early-stage drug discovery for MS. Fast Forward will continue to provide critical resources for underfunded academic institutions and seed-to-early-stage companies engaged in innovative research in support of its commitment to end multiple sclerosis.

“EMD Serono is pleased to join forces with Fast Forward to drive the development of a new generation of MS therapies,” said Steve Arkinstall, Vice President, US Research, EMD Serono, Inc. “By providing university researchers and early-stage companies with an opportunity for follow-on funding and continued collaboration, we can close the gap between the laboratory discoveries and life changing therapies for people with MS.”

Fast Forward is seeking proposals for funding through the Accelerating Innovation and the Accelerating Commercial Development programs. The Accelerating Innovation program is open to academic institutions, non-profit research organizations, and seedstage for-profit commercial organizations. The Accelerating Commercial Development program is open to early-stage for-profit commercial organizations that have achieved Series A or comparable investment funding.

Priority research areas for this RFP include:

• modulation of innate and/or adaptive immunity to promote central nervous system (CNS) neuroprotection and/or repair;

• molecular strategies for direct CNS neuroprotection;

• molecular approaches for CNS repair and remyelination;

• regenerative cell therapies and related platform technologies.

The commitment of $3 million in 2009 is comprised of up to $250,000 in funding available for one year to each awardee selected through the Accelerating Innovation program and up to $500,000 in funding available for one year to each awardee selected through the Accelerating Commercial Development program.

The overall selection of program awardees will be made exclusively by Fast Forward, with participation by EMD Serono Inc. under Fast Forward’s standard assessment process. The full RFPs are available on Fast Forward’s web site, www.fast.forward.org along with eligibility criteria for both programs and instructions for submission of a preliminary proposal.

Preliminary proposals are required of all applicants and must be submitted online by July 28, 2009. Preliminary proposals will be reviewed by the Fast Forward’s staff and a panel of experts drawn from Fast Forward’s Scientific and Business Advisory Committee. Applicants whose preliminary proposals are determined to meet the review criteria will be invited to submit full proposals which will be due in late October, 2009. Funding is anticipated by December 2009. All funding disbursements will be managed and approved by the Fast Forward Board of Directors.

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 more than 2 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 is a nonprofit organization established by the National Multiple Sclerosis Society in order to accelerate the development of treatments for MS. Fast Forward will accomplish its mission 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 FDAapproved drugs as new treatments for MS. For more information visit www.fastforward.org

 

About the National Multiple Sclerosis Society

The National MS Society addresses the challenges of each person affected by MS through 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. In 2008 alone, through the national office and its 500- state network of chapters, the Society devoted over $136 million to programs that enhanced more than one million lives. The Society also invested nearly $50 million to support 440 research projects around the world. The Society is dedicated to achieving a world free of MS. Join the movement at www.nationalMSsociety.org.

 

About EMD Serono

EMD Serono, Inc., an affiliate 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, with Rebif® (interferon beta-1a), as well as in endocrinology, with Saizen® (somatropin (rDNA origin) for injection) and Serostim® (somatropin (rDNA origin) for injection). EMD Serono is a leader in fertility treatments, with Gonal-f® (follitropin alfa for injection), Luveris® (lutropin alfa for injection) and Ovidrel® Prefilled Syringe (choriogonadotropin alpha injection). With a clear focus on the patient and a leadership presence in the biopharmaceutical industry, EMD Serono’s US footprint continues to grow, with more than 1000 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 EUR 7.6 billion in 2008, a history that began in 1668, and a future shaped by 32,700 employees in 60 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 www.merckserono.com or www.merck.de 

 

 Contact: Renee Connolly 781-681-2340

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