Parkinson's Specialist Spins Out From Merck Serono's Soon-to-close R&D Operations

GENEVA, July 30, 2012 /PRNewswire/ --

•Prexton Therapeutics Will Develop Merck Serono's Metabotropic Glutamate Receptors Programs for Parkinson's Disease

Merck Serono, a division of Merck, Darmstadt, Germany, announced today the creation of Prexton Therapeutics, the first spin-off company resulting from its Entrepreneur Partnership Program launched in April 2012. Prexton Therapeutics will be formed around Merck Serono's R&D portfolio in the field of Parkinson's disease and will focus on programs that target the metabotropic glutamate receptors mGluR3 and mGluR4.

"We are really proud and satisfied that this first project is now coming to life. Through such initiatives, not only will we be able to maintain jobs in the Geneva area but also unique expertise," said François Naef, Chairman of the Board of Directors of Merck Serono S.A. "The newly founded company will be headed by a highly experienced scientist and entrepreneur, which gives us a lot of confidence in the success of Prexton Therapeutics."

With a team composed of seasoned Merck Serono scientists with long-standing experience in neurology and a significant portfolio of chemical compounds stemming from Merck Serono's pre-clinical research, Prexton Therapeutics will be well positioned in the field of neurodegenerative diseases. The newly founded company will develop the mGluR programs from lead optimization up to clinical Phase I and seek partnership and licensing opportunities for further development. The company will be hosted in the offices and laboratory of Eclosion, a biotech start-up incubator located in Plan-les-Ouates, Geneva, and supported by the Geneva authorities. Merck Serono will invest € 2.1 million as seed funding. Merck Serono Ventures will manage the investment and will be represented on the company's board of directors.

"Metabotropic glutamate receptors (mGluR) have been shown recently to be a key target to tackle the onset of Parkinson's disease. Therefore, modulating their response is certainly among the most promising ways to develop future treatments for one of the most severe brain diseases," said François Conquet, founder and CEO of Prexton Therapeutics. "I have long been interested in the potential of mGluR-targeted therapies and now there is a great opportunity to further develop Merck Serono's programs in Parkinson's disease and offer new hopes to patients."

Announced in April 2012 in the framework of the efficiency measures being taken by Merck Serono, the Entrepreneur Partnership Program (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 Merck Serono. This program is aimed at reducing the impact on employment following closure of the Geneva headquarters due to the restructuring.

About Merck Serono

Merck Serono is the biopharmaceutical division of Merck KGaA. With headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland, Merck Serono offers leading brands in 150 countries to help patients with cancer, multiple sclerosis, infertility, endocrine and metabolic disorders as well as cardiovascular diseases. In the United States and Canada, EMD Serono operates as a separately incorporated subsidiary of Merck Serono.

Merck Serono discovers, develops, manufactures and markets prescription medicines of both chemical and biological origin in specialist indications. We have an enduring commitment to deliver novel therapies in our core focus areas of neurodegenerative diseases, oncology and rheumatology.

About Merck

Merck is a global pharmaceutical and chemical company with total revenues of €10.3 billion in 2011, a history that began in 1668, and a future shaped by more than 40,000 employees in 67 countries. Its success is characterized by innovations from entrepreneurial employees. Merck's operating activities come under the umbrella of Merck KGaA, in which the Merck family holds an approximately 70% interest and free shareholders own the remaining approximately 30%. In 1917 the U.S. subsidiary Merck & Co. was expropriated and has been an independent company ever since.

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