Biopharm GmbH announced that they have signed an agreement with Merck to cooperate with Merck Serono in their research activities directed toward the molecular engineering of a biologic compound for the treatment of osteoarthritis. Under the terms of the agreement, Biopharm and Merck Serono will enter a joint discovery project focusing on a potential pro-anabolic osteoarthritis modifying drug based on a growth factor derived from the Biopharm growth factor platform technology.Payment fees include an upfront payment, service fees, potential milestone, and royalty payments. Further financial details of the agreement were not disclosed.
The aim of the research program, which is intended to run for two years, is to strengthen the potential beneficial effects of an existing wildtype protein, which is thought to drive hyaline joint cartilage formation during embryogenic development and seems to be associated with osteoarthritis.
Biopharm will provide variants of the wildtype protein and early pre-clinical research services focusing on the molecule properties to Merck Serono. In case of identification of any development candidates, Merck Serono will own exclusive development and commercialization rights to the development candidates for osteoarthritis.
“We have insight that the maternal protein shows an important role in joint cartilage formation. These findings raise hope that a modified wildtype protein may induce cartilage regeneration in the osteoarthritic joint,” said Dr. Frank Plöger, CSO of Biopharm. “The alliance will draw on the combined expertise and resources of Merck Serono and Biopharm with the ultimate goal to develop a disease modifying osteoarthritis drug. Although we have knowledge about the molecule, we need a partner like Merck Serono, who does not only provide the necessary resources, but also know how best to set up of our research program to ensure a successful hand over to clinical experts,” commented Biopharm.
According to the World Health Organization more than 5% of adults over 40 in developed countries, or more than 30 million people, suffer from osteoarthritis of the knee.