Roche Turns to MS Research on Agreement with Versant Ventures

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by Patricia Silva, PhD |

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RocheThe Swiss pharmaceutical company Roche recently announced a partnership agreement with California-based Inception Sciences and venture capital firm Versant Ventures. The three companies will work together to form a new company, Inception 5, which will be dedicated mostly to the development of therapies for multiple sclerosis.

Inception 5’s research will focus on multiple molecular targets for remyelination, the process of repairing neural insulation. The company will also work towards building a remyelination screening platform, which will be led by investigators from the University of California.

Myelin is a compound present in the neural sheaths which the immune system incorrectly identifies as a pathogen. Lesions on the myelin layer lead to a wide and unpredictable range of neurological symptoms. However, the screening platform will enable clinicians to test how thousands of drugs spur oligodendrocytes to produce myelin.

Versant Ventures, a venture capital firm specializing in investments in game-changing biopharmaceutical and medical device opportunities, will provide the funding for the company, although the amount hasn’t been revealed. Roche, on the other hand, will finance the research based on a series of milestones.

This agreement is part of Roche’s efforts to diversify its offer and research field beyond its expertise in cancer. The Basel-based firm had already begun other research projects for Alzheimer’s disease and schizophrenia, as well as other neurodegenerative disorders.

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Roche will have the option of buying the partnership by the time the company delivers its first Investigational New Drug (IND) files, which involves a drug developer asking permission to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to start testing the drug on humans.

The name Inception 5 comes from Inception Science, which is a “small molecule pharmaceutical incubator” that was founded in 2011, according to its website. Versant Ventures uses the company to fund Inception spin-offs in collaboration with outside drug companies and the name Inception 5 suggest there were four prior.

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