Kadimastem will screen compounds of Merck Serono for potential new oral drugs to treat Multiple SclerosisNes Ziona, Israel, April 5, 2012 – Kadimastem, an Israeli Biotechnology company that develops human pluripotent stem cell-related products, today announced the signing of a five year framework agreement with Merck Serono, a division of Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany. The agreement concerns the use of Kadimastem's drug-screening platform to discover new oral drugs for the treatment of the neurological disease Multiple Sclerosis (MS).The system developed by Kadimastem, allows using human functional tissues produced industrially from pluripotent stem cells as a means to search for potential new drugs, a direct approach that has advantages over the use of animals. In Multiple Sclerosis, the insulating myelin sheaths which cover many nerves in the brain and spinal cord are destroyed, due to loss of the myelin-forming cells, resulting in the impairment of nerve function and severe neurological disabilities. It is estimated, that 2.5 million patients suffer from this disease around the globe. While the existing treatments act by slowing down the loss of myelin-forming cells, there is great interest in finding new medications that could repair the myelin by stimulating the regeneration of myelin-forming cells. The drug-screening project to be carried out through the Kadimastem-Merck Serono agreement, aims precisely at the discovery of potential oral drugs that act by stimulating myelin repair.“We are pleased to announce this agreement with Merck-Serono, a company with robust experience in drug discovery, development and marketing in the Multiple Sclerosis area,” said Mr. Yossi Ben-Yossef, CEO of Kadimastem. "The undisclosed compensation for this agreement will provide financial support for Kadimastem's own in-house drug discovery initiatives, in the field of neurodegenerative diseases as well as in the field of Diabetes. Kadimastem also produces pancreatic islet cells from pluripotent stem cells, for screening of drugs enhancing insulin secretion and eventually for cellular therapy of Diabetes."Prof. Michel Revel, Chief Scientist of Kadimastem, further commented: “We are very proud that after a thorough evaluation, Merck Serono decided to sign an agreement with us. We see it as a proof of our excellence in developing human myelin-forming cells and our capabilities in drug screening. We believe that this agreement is a first step towards further collaboration with Merck-Serono and other Pharmaceutical companies, in which our capabilities in drug screening on human functional cell systems will synergize with their capabilities in medicinal chemistry and clinical development, to make drugs available more rapidly and more efficiently".Prof. Revel from the Weizmann Institute of Science was the Chief Scientist of InterPharm, an Israeli biotech company part of the Merck Serono group that developed Prof. Revel's groundbreaking research which lead to Rebif® (mammalian cell-produced recombinant Interferon beta-1a), today a leading drug for the treatment of Multiple Sclerosis with annual sales by Merck Serono of over US$ 2.3 billion.Mr. Amir Naiberg, CEO of Yeda, the commercial arm of the Weizmann Institiute of Science, said: "We are excited that Kadimastem, that was established around one of our technologies, is collaborating with Merck Serono. Merck Serono has a long and successful tradition of developing products that emerged from the Weizmann Institute labs, and we hope that Kadimastem will be another link in this chain. "
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