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Published on 3 July 2008

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Deal clears way for MS treatment


Work by an Australian research body has led to an agreement between two major medical companies which could see the development of new treatments for multiple sclerosis (MS).

Australian biotechnology company, Bionomics has signed a development and licensing agreement with Germany-based pharmaceutical company, Merck Serono.

Merck Serono will now look into treatment for autoimmune conditions based on compounds from Bionomics’ Kv1.3 programme which the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute (WEHI) helped to develop.

In the late 1990s, WEHI’s Dr Jonathan Baell found that certain derivatives of a natural product called khellinone could block a potassium channel called Kv1.3. This potassium channel selectively inhibits autoreactive T cells, such as those that attack the myelin sheath in people with MS.

Dr Baell said: “Our research in this area had a rocky start, but when our first patents were published in 2003, Start-Up Australia approached us with an interest in licensing the intellectual property.

“This came to fruition in late 2004 through their investee company, Iliad, which was able to resource the medicinal chemistry effort required.”

Copyright © PA Business 2008

Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research

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