GeNeuro SA has signed a unique partnership with Servier. The French pharmaceutical giant have bought an option for €38M on the marketing rights outside the United States and Japan for a treatment against multiple sclerosis. Could GeNeuro become the next Merck-Serono?

This amount will allow the Swiss company to continue the clinical development of this molecule. Servier will also cover the costs of additional development and testing, and royalties up to €328M, if the drug gets to the market.

Multiple sclerosis (MS) is an autoimmune and neurodegenerative disease affecting the brain and spinal cord. 2.3 million people are affected by the disease in the world and its market was valued at €11,4 billion in 2013.

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Over the last decade, partnerships in the life sciences between a startup and a large group on such amounts can be counted on the fingers of one hand. GeNeuro therapy is particularly promising. Current treatments against multiple sclerosis focus on the patient’s immune system while this molecule acts directly on the cause of the disease. The drug is GNbAC1, a humanized monoclonal antibody designed to stop progression of both relapsing-remitting and progressive forms of multiple sclerosis without hampering a patient’s immune system.

GNbAC1 has successfully completed Phase IIa, showing encouraging signs of efficacy on a first small cohort of patients as well as an optimal safety profile, according to GeNeuro and Servier. GNbAC1 targets MSRV-Env, the envelope protein of MS-associated retrovirus, the expression of which is reactivated and expressed in MS lesions from an early stage in the disease. The protein has been shown to be both pro-inflammatory and an inhibitor of remyelination.

The next steps before a possible commercialization will be phases 2B and 3 which should extend over more or less five years on a large sample of patients worldwide.

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