Roche announces partnership to discover novel disease-modifying therapies for multiple sclerosis.
Roche has entered into an exclusive partnership with Inception Sciences, Inc., and Versant Ventures to create Inception 5, a new company dedicated to the research and development of novel small molecule remyelinating therapies for patients with multiple sclerosis.
The collaboration will focus on screening and developing novel small molecule therapies that aim to promote remyelination of nerve sheaths damaged as a result of multiple sclerosis disease progression. Inception 5 will build on recent discoveries in the field and a proprietary remyelination screening platform developed by investigators at the University of California, San Francisco. The company will pursue multiple molecular targets for remyelination that have already been identified. Versant will provide equity financing to the company and Roche will fund the research based on a series of milestones. Roche retains an exclusive option to acquire Inception 5 upon a first lead compound reaching the filing stage of an investigational new drug (IND) application.
“With Inception 5, we look forward to further unraveling the biological basis of nerve myelination and target-repair mechanisms in multiple sclerosis,” commented Luca Santarelli, Global Head of Neuroscience at Roche Pharmaceutical Research and Early Development. “To tap into an area that has recently seen significant advances, we will partner with world-class scientists, entrepreneurs and investors in the context of our newly established model for externalized drug discovery.”
“This deal represents the second build-to-buy newco we have jointly created with Versant Ventures and drug hunters at Inception Sciences,” said Shafique Virani, Global Head of Neuroscience Partnering at Roche. “The unique deal construct lends itself well to exploring exciting, groundbreaking new science and jointly de-risking early stage research with Versant/Inception.”
Multiple Sclerosis is an autoimmune-mediated disease of the central nervous system (CNS) and is one of the leading causes of neurological disability in young adults. The immune system incorrectly attacks healthy nerve tissue in the CNS, which affects the transfer of electrical signals from the CNS to the body. The development and course of symptoms is unpredictable and varies between patients. Some patients may experience muscle weakness, poor balance or coordination and tremors as well as altered sensation, memory and concentration problems. Over time the natural course leads to permanent disability in most patients. According to the Multiple Sclerosis International Federation (MSIF), approximately 2.3 million people worldwide are affected by multiple sclerosis.
With 12 investigational medicines in clinical development, neuroscience is a major focus of research and development at Roche. A therapeutic antibody, ocrelizumab, which selectively targets CD20+ B cells, a type of immune cell believed to contribute to nerve damage in people with multiple sclerosis, is currently being investigated in a Phase III clinical programme.
Inception Sciences is a drug discovery incubator exclusively backed by Versant Ventures, with research sites in the US and Canada. Inception Sciences consists of a seasoned team of drug discoverers with a track record of inventing drugs that have successfully entered the clinic and market. In collaboration with pioneering academic researchers, Inception Sciences has created multiple new start-up companies for translating breakthrough scientific insights into novel therapies.