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GEN News Highlights : Sep 4, 2012

Merck Serono Spins Out Biomarker Informatics

Merck Serono has spun out a bioinformatics firm, Quartz Bio, to provide biomarker data management and exploratory biomarker analysis services to the pharma industry. The new firm is the second created through Merck Serono’s Entrepreneur Partnership Program (EPP), which was launched in April.

The EPP initiative is part of the firm’s €30 million (approximately $37.7 million) drive to support the establishment of spin-out and start-up firms based on technologies and compounds developed in-house. Merck Serono says spinning out promising IP will reduce the burden on its existing employees, given the recent closure of its Geneva headquarters as part of a major restructuring program. The EPP has already led to creation of Parkinson‘s disease therapeutics firm Prexton Therapeutics at the end of July.

Quartz Bio will be hosted at the Blue Box offices of FONGIT, a start-up accelerate in Geneva, which is supported by the local authorities. Merck Serono says it will itself use the services provided by Quartz Bio, and expects to put around €2 million (around $2.5 million)-worth of work the firm’s way over the next 2–3 years.

“An increasing number of pharmaceutical companies are integrating a stratified medicine approach in their drug development process in order to predict how patients will respond to a specific therapy,” comments founder and CEO Jérôme Wojcik, former director of bioinformatics at Merck Serono. “Biomarker analyses are at the heart of stratified medicine, and we believe that Quartz Bio’s flexible and highly specialized services will bring added value to pharmaceutical companies for the development of new drug.”