News Feature | December 9, 2014

New Drug Development Alliance Formed To Tackle Multiple Sclerosis

By Suzanne Hodsden

French-based pharmaceutical research company, Servier has invested an initial $47 million in GeNeuro for the development of GNbAC1, a biologic candidate undergoing testing as a multiple sclerosis (MS) therapy which currently in phase 2b testing. The treatment is the first of its kind and has the potential to revolutionize the ways that MS is clinically addressed.

Under the terms of the agreement, Servier will finance phase 3 testing and global development costs. If the treatment proves successful, Servier has agreed to pay GeNeuro up to $480 million to reimburse sales milestones and future royalties.

GNbAC1 is a humanized monoclonal antibody which targets MSRV-Env. According to GeNeuro, MSRV is typically latent but can be activated by certain outside triggers and viruses, such as Herpes or Epstein Barr. As a result, it expresses the envelope protein which instigates the progression of the disease.

GeNeuro explains that scientists first discovered and isolated the MSRV-Env protein because it appeared in high concentrations in MS patients and correlated with the severity and progression of MS symptoms.

GNbAC1 could potentially stop the progression of both relapsing remitting and progressive forms of MS by targeting the MSRV-Env protein without compromising a patient’s immune system.

Servier’s $47 million investment will cover the costs of finishing phase 2 testing for GNbAC1, completed with GeNeuro.

Christian de Bodinat, Director of the Neuro-psychiatry Therapeutic Innovation Center explained the significance of the research: “MS — and especially its progressive forms — is still a major source of handicap in the world with no satisfactory therapeutic options.”

Multiple Sclerosis manifests in three different forms: relapsing remitting, primary, and secondary progressive, and is an autoimmune disease which attacks the myelin sheath, the protective covering around nerve cells. As a result, nerve communication between the brain and body is slowed, which manifests in a variety of physical symptoms.

There are a number of different theories experts believe work in combination to cause the disorder, and no cure for the disease currently exists. The Mayo Clinic reports that no current therapies slow the progression of primary progressive MS, and many of the available treatments cause moderate to severe side-effects and require close monitoring.

According to the National MS Society, there is no registry that consistently tracks the prevalence of the disorder, however the Society projects the worldwide prevalence of MS to be around 2.3 million.