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Merck KGaA and Pfizer collaborate on lupus

Companies team up with academics to research treatments for autoimmune disorder
Merck KGaA HQ Darmstadt

Two leading pharma companies will work with a team of academics in the US to research new treatments for Lupus.

Germany-based Merck KGaA – via its stateside subsidiary EMD Serono – and US-based Pfizer have signed an agreement with the Broad Institute, a non-profit research organisation affiliated with both the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard University

The partners will combine expertise to identify the genomic profile of systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) and lupus nephritis (LN).

SLE, more commonly known as lupus, is a systemic autoimmune disorder where the body's immune system attacks cells and tissue in its organs leading to inflammation. Patients with SLE can develop LN, which is a specific inflammation of the kidney.

Currently most treatments available for SLE, typically corticosteroids, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs and immunosuppresants, target the symptoms of the disease rather than its  underlying pathology.

The project between Merck, Pfizer and the Broad Institute aims to look at the genetics of the disease, however, and will begin with the investigation of clinical samples from patients with SLE and LN.

These samples will be analysed by the Broad Institute with the goal of identifying suitable biomarkers that can identify specific patient populations that can benefit from future therapies.

This research will also use computer modelling to identify molecular drivers for both SLE and LN flares, helping to isolate potential drug targets.

It's the next stage where Merck and Pfizer come in; with the agreement providing both companies with real-time access to this data and analysis. They will also be able to send scientists to the Broad Institute to collaborate on the work being done by the academic researchers.

Johan Lund, senior VP and chief scientific officer of immunoscience at Pfizer, said the collaboration would help understand “a debilitating disease that has long been a mystery to the scientific community”.

Article by
Thomas Meek

3rd April 2014

From: Research

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