NEU²: New Concepts, New MS Therapeutics, New Partnership Model.
Dr. Timm Jessen, CEO of Bionamics GmbH and founder of NEU²
NEU² represents a new model of public-private partnership for drug discovery focusing on the development of novel therapies against neurological diseases with a specific emphasis on multiple sclerosis. The NEU² consortium is coordinated by Bionamics, an independent project and asset management company and founder of NEU², and comprises, amongst others, Merck KGaA, Biotest AG, European ScreeningPort GmbH, the University Medical Center Hamburg-Eppendorf and Evotec AG.
Multiple sclerosis (MS) is an inflammatory disease of the central nervous system suspected to have an autoimmune etiology. More than 2.5 Mio people worldwide are affected; as it is the most common cause of neurological disability in young and middle-aged adults the socioeconomic impacts of MS are enormous. Facts are that there are currently no treatment options for the chronic progressive forms of the disease and also only limited options for MS treatment in general. To the MS experts, most of the approved therapies and developments in late stage clinical trials appear as a kind of sledgehammer that unselectively dampen the patient´s immune system; therefore, the focus is moving towards innovative approaches aiming at more selective, “scalpel-like” drugs, e.g. to protect or even regenerate the de-myelinated axons.
No doubt, this is a challenging goal which requires the integration and orchestration of the most advanced technologies and discovery processes with cutting edge biological, pharmacological and clinical sciences and know-how. A clear understanding of the molecular pathophysiology seems to be key and to address this challenge properly, many bio/pharmaceutical companies are pursuing networked drug discovery and development alliances i.e. long-term, mutually beneficial collaborations connecting the corporate partner with academic research institutions, therapeutically focused investors and clinical operations experts.
NEU² has been set up to address this challenge. The NEU² consortium represents a new model of public-private partnership for early drug discovery and development which has been in operation in Germany since the 2nd half of 2009. The consortium assembles academic laboratories, start-up biopharmaceutical companies, platform providers together with mature product-driven companies. All receive commonly shared as well as complementary incentives such as access to innovative academic preclinical and clinical research, publications and the potential to generate commercial rewards for successful projects.
Within NEU², several parties share and combine their respective proven special expertise in a series of drug discovery and development projects: e.g. the University Hospital of Hamburg in target identification and validation, the European ScreeningPort in translating biology into the chemistry space, Evotec, an expert in medicinal chemistry and ion channel physiology, in providing its platform on a service basis, Merck Serono in animal models, pre-clinical development and market expertise and the University Hospital again with first clinical trials. Typically, a project “hops” from one specialist to the next for technical problem solving and to enjoy the best possible efficiency while moving forward on the value chain until it is commercialized within or outside of the consortium. The project portfolio comprises modulators of ion channels, receptors and enzymes; both, small molecules and biologics are pursued and have reached different stages of the drug discovery and development path.
Special expertise not available within NEU² but required by the project can be recruited from outside on a service basis. Members of NEU² need to be asset providers and special experts, the steering committee is foremost science driven to filter project proposals, to judge on project progress and to propose project decisions. Rules and responsibilities, including IP dealings, have mutually been defined in the consortium agreement and signed by all parties. Results and know-how are shared between the consortium members through a well-protected IT platform. Investors (private, institutional or strategic) get involved at a specific project level, no consortium membership is required for them.
Dr. Timm Jessen: “NEU² has meanwhile produced first results on the way towards new drugs and new treatment modalities in MS. Eventually, our new structural approach to drug discovery and development will be evaluated based on its primary and mid-term outcome, its perspective, and – last but not least – its capital efficiency.”
Dr. Timm-H. Jessen
Tel: +49 4621 9787376
Fax: +49 4621 9787375