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Compugen, Merck Serono to jointly establish biomarker company Neviah Genomics
GENEVA & TEL AVIV, Israel—Merck Serono, a division of Darmstadt, Germany-based Merck KGaA, and Compugen Ltd. recently announced the establishment of Neviah Genomics Ltd., a start-up company focused on the discovery and development of novel biomarkers for the prediction of drug-induced toxicity. It will operate out of the Merck Serono Israel Bioincubator—specifically the Merck Serono R&D center known as Inter-Lab that was inaugurated in Israel in May.
This joint venture is the first investment within the framework of the recently formed Merck Serono Israel Bioincubator program, and Merck Serono Ventures will provide the initial funding for Neviah Genomics, while Compugen will bring to bear certain of its proprietary predictive discovery technologies and receive an equity ownership in the new company in addition to a right to royalties from potential future sales. Further financial details of the agreement were not disclosed.
This agreement follows what Merck Serono and Compugen botrh call "a successful collaboration" for the discovery of "biomarker signatures" for drug induced toxicity in 2009. The companies believe that the establishment of Neviah Genomics with their combined capabilities could satisfy the growing market need for products to predict toxicity profiles of lead drug candidates at an early stage of development, thereby minimizing attrition and mitigating risk of late-stage drug failure.
"Following our prior successful collaboration with Merck Serono, we are very pleased to expand this relationship and enter into this new and exciting partnership," noted Dr. Anat Cohen-Dayag, president and CEO of Compugen. "We are honored to be the first Israeli company to benefit from the establishment of Merck Serono's Israel Bioincubator and look forward to taking our partnership to the next level. Furthermore, the formation of Neviah Genomics on a 'discovery on demand' basis enables Compugen to both continue its focus on therapeutic monoclonal antibodies and therapeutic proteins in the fields of immunology and oncology and provide potential future benefits for our shareholders from our equity interest in Neviah and royalties from future product sales."
"Neviah Genomics is a perfect illustration of our goals behind the establishment of the Israel Biotech Incubator: to leverage Israeli science and know-how and get access to novel products and technologies for the benefit of Merck Serono's core therapeutic areas," said Susan Herbert, executive vice president of global business development and strategy at Merck Serono. "In this regard, we are delighted to be collaborating on our first investment with Compugen, one of the premier biotech companies in Israel and a world leading predictive drug discovery company. We believe that our joint technology and resources represent a unique basis for a start-up to enter this emerging field that has the potential to significantly reduce the risk of drug discovery and development."
Neviah Genomics reportedly will benefit from Compugen's sophisticated proprietary computational discovery platforms to develop advanced toxicogenomics diagnostic tests. Developed tests will be used for the prediction of drug-induced toxicity and integrated into a biomarker platform to support the prioritization and development of drug product candidates.
Merck Serono Ventures is the strategic, corporate venture capital fund of Merck Serono and invests in biotech start-up companies that have the potential to provide novel products in Merck Serono's core therapeutic areas, which are neurodegenerative diseases, oncology, autoimmune and inflammatory diseases, endocrinology and fertility. In addition, Merck Serono Ventures invests in companies developing innovative platform technologies that could enable the discovery and development of new products in those core therapeutic areas.
In 2011, Merck Serono initiated the Merck Serono Israel Bioincubator Fund, which aims to "stimulate innovation by bridging the gap between academic research and the biotechnology industry in Israel." The Bioincubator offers both seed financing and access to dedicated, state-of-the-art laboratory facilities within Inter-Lab, Merck Serono's Israel-based research and development center. Merck Serono is committing a total of EUR 10 million to the Bioincubator initiative.