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Fast Forward, LLC and EMD Serono, Inc. Announce Recipients of Funding for Multiple Sclerosis Research -- up to $1.4 million in 2012 to accelerate early-stage research in MS

December 20, 2012

Fast Forward, LLC,  a not-for-profit organization established by the National MS Society, and EMD Serono, Inc., a subsidiary of Merck KGaA (Darmstadt, Germany), 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 therapies.

The awards total approximately $1.4 million and will be distributed from the Accelerating Commercial Development Fund created by Fast Forward and EMD Serono 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.

Fast Forward and EMD Serono 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:
  • 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 Charité - Universitätsmedizin 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.

“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.”

Fast Forward and EMD Serono 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.

“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.”

Read more about EMD Serono
Read more about Merck KGaA

About Multiple Sclerosis

Multiple sclerosis is an unpredictable, often disabling disease of the central nervous system that disrupts the flow of information within the brain, and between the brain and body. Symptoms range from numbness and tingling to blindness and paralysis. The progress, severity and specific symptoms of MS in any one person cannot yet be predicted, but advances in research and treatment are leading to better understanding and moving us closer to a world free of MS. Most people with MS are diagnosed between the ages of 20 and 50, with at least two to three times more women than men being diagnosed with the disease. MS affects more than 2.3 million people worldwide.


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