EMD Serono Research and Development Institute, a subsidiary of Merck KGaA, entered an agreement with Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) to research systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) and lupus nephritis (LN) pathogenesis.

In the collaboration, EMD Serono immunology scientists will work jointly with MGH investigators to characterize and validate the expression of investigative therapeutic targets, pathogenic immune cell types, and biomarkers in SLE and LN patients. MGH investigators plan to collect biospecimens to be used in various translational research applications, including compound testing and gene expression analysis of target molecules.

A major aim of this collaboration is to generate supportive data for the role of certain proteins targeted by clinical stage assets in the EMD Serono portfolio in LN pathogenesis as well as enable early discovery efforts in immunology.

EMD Serono has an SLE experimental drug in Phase II of its research pipeline, atacicept, an anti-Blys/anti-APRIL fusion protein. In the past few years, the company has entered several research collaborations focused on lupus. In April, it launched an initiative with Pfizer and the Broad Institute to focus on the genomic profiling of SLE and LN patients.

Last year, EMD Serono joined the Feinstein Institute in a preclinical program to develop antibodies to treat SLE by inhibiting the action of certain proteins responsible for inflammation in the pathogenesis of the disorder. 

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