EMD Serono’s New Spin-Off Tocopherx To Focus On Infertility Treatment

Published: Dec 02, 2013

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* Entrepreneur Partnership Program (EPP) to finance the 8th spin-off
* TocopheRx to accelerate development of investigational oral follicle-stimulating hormone agonists for treatment of infertility

EMD Serono, Inc., a subsidiary of Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany, announced today the creation of TocopheRx, a Boston-based spin-off company resulting from the Entrepreneur Partnership Program (EPP) launched by Merck Serono, the biopharmaceutical division of Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany, in April 2012. TocopheRx, the 8th spin-off in the EPP will focus on the development of oral follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) agonists for treatment of infertility, by advancing EMD Serono's preclinical program toward clinical testing. The affiliate of EMD Serono will initially invest $3.2 million (approx. €2.4 million) in seed funding. MS Ventures, the corporate venture arm of Merck Serono, will manage the investment and will be represented on the company's board of directors.

FSH administration today is a standard hormonal treatment to help women and men with the unfulfilled desire to have children. TocopheRx strives to further investigate the potential role of oral FSH agonists in fertility treatment protocols.

"The new company creation around EMD Serono's promising asset in the fertility space represents a unique opportunity to bring forward an innovative investigational product through externalization in a capital-efficient manner," said Belén Garijo, President and Chief Executive Officer of Merck Serono, the biopharmaceutical division of Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany. "It demonstrates our continued commitment to developing the next-generation of infertility treatments and required technologies, with the goal to improve the success rate of in vitro fertilization procedures.”

The founders of TocopheRx are Stephen Palmer, Chief Scientific Officer at TocopheRx, Selva Nataraja, head of Biology, and Henry Yu, head of Medicinal Chemistry. Stephen Palmer was the head of the fertility research group at Merck Serono for 9 years, 2004-2013. Building on this highly experienced team combining scientific and drug discovery expertise with specific experience in the field of fertility, TocopheRx aims to bring a significant contribution to pharmaceutical approaches of infertility treatment. The seed financing will support the company to develop the asset from lead optimization to identification of a clinical candidate, and seek further financing and partnership opportunities for further development.

“Fertility research continues to be an important focus of R&D innovation. This seeding approach will enable us to further support the development of an oral FSH agonist, a promising early asset that we hope will help couples seeking fertility solutions,” said Annalisa Jenkins, head of Global Research & Development for Merck Serono.

Infertility is defined by the World Health Organization (WHO) as the inability of a couple to achieve conception or bring a pregnancy to term after a year or more of regular, unprotected sexual intercourse. It is estimated that over 70 million couples in the world are infertile. As the world leader in the treatment of infertility, EMD Serono has developed a comprehensive range of treatments designed to aid the estimated 1 in 10 couples of childbearing age who seek medical help for infertility.

TocopheRx is the 8th company financed in the context of Merck Serono’s EPP. Announced in April 2012 in the framework of the efficiency measures being taken by EMD Serono, the EPP is part of a € 30 million commitment to support the creation of spin-off and start-up companies focused on continuing activities and compounds that originated at EMD Serono. Initially, the program was aimed at reducing the impact on employment following the announced closure of the Geneva headquarters due to the restructuring. Since 2012, the EPP has contributed to the successful creation of local biotech start-up and service companies in Switzerland, but has been extended to former Merck Serono employees worldwide as well.

About TocopheRx

TocopheRx is a Boston based company developing novel therapies for treatment of infertility. The Company is a Merck Serono spin-off to further develop an oral FSH agonist toward clinical development and is seed financed by MS Ventures

About MS Ventures

MS Ventures is the strategic corporate venture capital fund of Merck Serono, the biopharmaceutical division of Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany. The fund was established in March 2009 and focuses primarily on early stage investments. MS Ventures has a strategic mandate and invests in companies that develop products and/ or technologies that could benefit patients in therapeutic areas relevant to Merck Serono. MS Ventures has a total of EUR 140 million under management for strategic investments, investments through its Israel BioIncubator and for spin-offs from the Merck Serono organization.

For more information, please visit www.ms-ventures.com.

About EMD Serono, Inc.

EMD Serono, Inc., a subsidiary of Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany, is a specialized biopharmaceutical company dedicated to developing therapies with groundbreaking potential. The company has strong market positions in neurology, endocrinology and in reproductive health. In addition, EMD Serono has an enduring commitment to solve the unsolvable, with state-of-the-art science dedicated to developing new therapies in our core focus areas of neurology, oncology, immuno-oncology and immunology. With a long-standing history of industry expertise and a dedication to shape the future of healthcare, the company’s US footprint continues to grow, with approximately 1,000 employees around the country and fully integrated commercial, clinical and research operations in the company’s home state of Massachusetts.

For more information, please visit www.emdserono.com

About Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany

Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany, is a global pharmaceutical, chemical and life science company with total revenues of € 11.2 billion in 2012, a history that began in 1668, and a future shaped by approx. 38,000 employees in 66 countries. Its success is characterized by innovations from entrepreneurial employees. Merck KGaA's operating activities come under the umbrella of Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany, in which the Merck family holds an approximately 70% interest and shareholders own the remaining approximately 30%. In 1917 the U.S. subsidiary Merck & Co. was expropriated and has been an independent company ever since.

Worldwide there are two separate companies that bear the name “Merck”, the original Merck KGaA from Darmstadt, Germany, the oldest pharmaceutical and chemical company in the world, and the pharmaceutical company Merck & Co. in the United States. The rights to the name and trademark MERCK in North America (USA and Canada) lie with Merck & Co., the former U.S. subsidiary of Merck, whereas Merck KGaA operates in North America under the umbrella brand EMD. In the rest of the world, Merck KGaA owns the rights to the Merck name and trademark. This press release was distributed by Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany.


For EMD Serono, Inc. Kristen LaVerghetta, 781-681-2065

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