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Massachusetts Life Sciences Center and Seven Global Biopharma Companies Announce First Round of Massachusetts Neuroscience Consortium Funding Recipients


7/11/2013 10:36:52 AM

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BILLERICA, Mass.— The Massachusetts Life Sciences Center (MLSC) and seven global biopharmaceutical companies announced today the first seven awards made to researchers through the Massachusetts Neuroscience Consortium.

The consortium was launched in June 2012 at the BIO International Convention in Boston, and the first solicitation for project submissions was issued last fall. Consortium members reviewed and evaluated nearly 100 applications and selected seven pre-clinical projects to fund at Massachusetts academic and research institutions with a focus on Alzheimer’s disease, Multiple Sclerosis, Neuropathic Pain and Parkinson’s disease. Consortium members are AbbVie, Biogen Idec, EMD Serono, Janssen Research & Development, LLC, Merck, Pfizer and Sunovion Pharmaceuticals Inc. The MLSC used its convening power to bring these companies together to form a new model for collaboration with the research community in order to accelerate the pace of discovery.

“Neurological diseases affect millions of Americans, and millions more across the globe,” said Governor Deval Patrick. “Our innovative model will advance neuroscience research right in our own backyard while bringing hope to the individuals and families impacted by these diseases.”

“The Neuroscience Consortium is a pioneering new model designed to accelerate significant breakthroughs in neuroscience and is founded on the belief that companies will make faster and more significant progress by working collaboratively,” said Susan-Windham Bannister, Ph.D., President & CEO of the MLSC. “We are excited that the first solicitation yielded such a positive response from the state’s academic and research institutions. We look forward to seeing the results of this research, and the impact it will have on patients suffering from the effects of Alzheimer’s disease, Multiple Sclerosis, Neuropathic Pain and Parkinson’s disease.”

The seven participating member companies have each contributed $250,000 to the consortium during this round, for total initial funding of $1.75 million. The seven awardees will each receive up to $250,000 in funding to further their respective neuroscience research projects. Additionally, every researcher has been assigned a project lead from one of the consortium member companies that will serve as the primary liaison between the investigator and the consortium as a whole. Consortium members will share all data generated from each of the projects with all members.

Grouped by the disease area focus of their projects, the Neuroscience Consortium’s first round of awardees are as follows:

Alzheimer’s:

• David A. Harris, M.D., Ph.D., Professor and Chair of Biochemistry - Boston University School of Medicine Consortium project liaison: Biogen Idec

• Bradley T. Hyman, MD, Ph.D., Director, Massachusetts Alzheimer Disease Research Center and John B. Penney Jr. Professor of Neurology, Massachusetts General Institute for Neurodegenerative Disease - Massachusetts General Hospital

Consortium project liaison: Janssen Research & Development, LLC

• Benjamin Wolozin, MD, Ph.D., Professor, Department of Pharmacology - Boston University School of Medicine Consortium project liaison: EMD Serono

Multiple Sclerosis

• Wassim Elyaman, Ph.D., Assistant Scientist, Instructor in Neurology – Brigham and Women's Hospital Consortium project liaison: Sunovion Pharmaceuticals Inc.

Neuropathic Pain

• David Clapham, M.D., Ph.D., Aldo R. Castaneda Professor of Cardiovascular Research and Professor of Neurobiology, Harvard Medical School, Investigator HHMI - Boston Children's Hospital

Consortium project liaison: Merck

• Clifford J. Woolf, M.D., Ph.D., Director, Program in Neurobiology Center, Children's and Professor of Neurology and Neurobiology, Harvard Medical School - Boston Children's Hospital

Consortium project liaison: AbbVie

Parkinson’s

• Ann M. Graybiel, Ph.D., Institute Professor - Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Consortium project liaison: Pfizer

Also present at the announcement today was Joann D’Amico Stone, a patient who was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis 20 years ago. As one of the more than 2.5 million people worldwide with the disease, D’amico Stone said that “MS does not just affect the person diagnosed. It affects the whole family.”

“I have MS; it does not have me,” continued D’Amico Stone. “I do not let MS stop me from doing what I want to do. With all of the great minds working together as part of the consortium, it is my hope that new treatments for people with MS and other neurological disorders will be developed.”

One of the researchers who was awarded funding through the consortium hopes to create targeted treatments for patients like D’Amico Stone: “Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a T cell-mediated autoimmune disease, where T cells responsible for sustaining the disease are believed to belong to the long-lived memory T cell pool,” said Dr. Elyaman. “The possibility that regulatory T cells (Tregs) might be used for the treatment of MS has recently gained momentum. However, our findings suggest that memory T cells are resistant to Treg-induced tolerance. Our project is set out to study the mechanisms of memory T cell resistance to suppression and will have an impact on our understanding of the immune response regulation, and may be used to develop specific treatments for MS.”

Background on the Massachusetts Neuroscience Consortium

Massachusetts is a center of excellence in the field of biomedical neuroscience, with world leaders representing all major fields of neurobiology and neurology. The combination of basic neuroscience, translational and clinical research across more than a dozen world-renowned institutions represents what may be the world’s highest density of neuroscience research. This provides a rich and fertile environment within which to advance the understanding and treatment of brain disorders.

The Neuroscience Consortium is a new model that is designed to leverage this rich environment for purposes of accelerating early-stage research available to the pharmaceutical industry, introducing academic researchers to the challenges of targeted research, and facilitating industry-academic collaborations.

A number of factors make this consortium unique:

• Projects that receive funding are short-term and results-oriented. Milestones, budgets and objectives have been clearly defined by the industry sponsors.

• Industry sponsors have identified common industry standards to inform the research and ensure compliance with established drug development protocols.

• Industry sponsors will work in collaboration with principal investigators and their teams; sponsors also will contribute tools, data and other resources to the project teams to expedite their work.

• Results developed by each principal investigator receiving funding will be shared among all of the consortium members. Industry sponsors will then determine their interest in validated targets as projects are completed.

About the Massachusetts Life Sciences Center

The Massachusetts Life Sciences Center (MLSC) is a quasi-public agency of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts tasked with implementing the Massachusetts Life Sciences Act, a 10-year, $1-billion initiative that was signed into law in June of 2008. The MLSC’s mission is to create jobs in the life sciences and support vital scientific research that will improve the human condition. This work includes making financial investments in public and private institutions that are advancing life sciences research, development and commercialization as well as building ties among sectors of the Massachusetts life sciences community. For more information, visit www.masslifesciences.com.

About the Neuroscience Consortium

Founded in the summer of 2012 and administered by the MLSC, the Neuroscience Consortium is a pioneering new model that is designed to leverage Massachusetts’ rich environment of neurobiology and neuroscience. Consortium members are AbbVie, Biogen Idec, EMD Serono, Janssen Research & Development, LLC, Merck, Pfizer and Sunovion Pharmaceuticals Inc. The consortium’s purpose is to accelerate early-stage research available to the pharmaceutical industry. By providing funding to premier primary investigators in the state, the consortium aims to introduce academic researchers to the challenges of targeted research and facilitate industry-academic collaborations.

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