Partnership will focus on compounds that allow selective inhibition of the immune cells that cause nerve cell damage in patients with MS.

Merck Serono and Bionomics have joined forces to develop treatments for multiple sclerosis and other autoimmune conditions based on compounds from Bionomics Kv1.3 program.

Bionomics will receive an upfront payment of $2 million and committed research funding. Merck Serono will fund all development activities including clinical development. Merck Serono intends to select compounds from Bionomics pool of compounds, and for each compound selected Bionomics may receive milestone payments of up to $47 million based on successful development and commercialization. In addition, Bionomics will be eligible to receive royalties on the net sales of licensed products.

The compounds discovered by Bionomics, around which the collaboration will focus, target the potassium ion channel Kv1.3. A key modulator of the immune system, Kv1.3 is a target found on human immune cells that are associated with nerve cell damage in patients with MS. Inhibitors of Kv1.3 have been shown to inhibit the proliferation of these immune cells, suggesting that they have application in the treatment of MS and potentially other autoimmune conditions, including arthritis, according to the companies.

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