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Two firms join Merck Serono's Israeli bioincubator

Metabomed to focus on cancer while ChanBio is developing treatments for MS
Merck KGaA HQ Darmstadt

Two more companies have joined a €10m bioincubator near Tel Aviv in Israel that was set up in 2011 by Merck Serono.

The new companies are start-up Metabomed  which focuses on research in the field of cancer metabolism and computational biology ,and antibody specialist ChanBio, which is trying to develop new treatments for multiple sclerosis.

The two new companies join one other that is already part of the bioincubator at Merck Serono's facilities in Yavne, namely Qlight Nanotech which is working on nanomaterials research with applications in display technologies and lighting systems.

Up to six companies can be supported by the fund, but to date it has received around a hundred applications.

The venture - which was the first in Israel to target biotech companies - has also forged strong ties with academic institutions such as Tel Aviv University and the Weizmann Institute of Science, which was one of the originators behind Merck Serono's big-selling MS treatment Rebif (interferon beta-1a) and cancer drug Erbitux (cetuximab).

The fund offers seed financing as well as the opportunity for biotechs to tap into the expertise of Merck Serono's Israeli R&D operations to help their own research.

Meanwhile, Merck Serono forged another link with Israel's life sciences sector earlier this month when it signed a memorandum of understanding with biotech company Kadimastem, which is trying to develop stem cell technologies.

Merck Serono wants to make use of Kadimastem's screening platform to characterise new compounds that may reverse the demyelination of nerves in MS, and also to possibly extend the collaboration into new fields such as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.

"Strategic investments in external innovation are a key component of our strategy," commented Stefan Oschmann, Merck's executive board member responsible for pharmaceuticals.

"Compared with other countries, Israel has the highest concentration of scientists and engineers in the world," he added. The country also claims to be first in the world for the number of medical device patents per capita, and second in biopharmaceuticals.

Article by
Phil Taylor

27th November 2013

From: Research

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