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Four leading Spanish biomedical research organizations from the public and private sectors have signed a pioneering agreement to develop new therapies and diagnostic methods for multiple sclerosis (MS): IDIBAPS-Hospital Clínic, in Barcelona; the Center for Applied Medical Research (CIMA, in Spanish), in Pamplona; and the biotech companies Digna Biotech (a spin-off of CIMA) and Owl Genomics. The strategic alliance implies an investment of 500,000 Euros for development of the drug 5’-methylthioadenosine (MTA) and for research on metabolomics based diagnostic biomarkers.

Unlike other neurodegenerative diseases, MS is diagnosed early on. If inflammation and degeneration are stopped, then the irreversible brain damage and consequent physical disabilities inherent to MS can be prevented. However, current therapies have limited efficacy and major side effects. Thus, improved diagnostic and treatment strategies must be developed.

The promise of MTA as an MS treatment lies in its good immunomodulatory activity and the fact that it is well tolerated. Moreover, researchers at IDIBAPS and Digna Biotech have recently shown that MTA also shows neuroprotective properties, which is a critical feature in MS therapy that is not addressed by existing treatments.

CIMA has three patents on MTA, all of which they have licensed to Digna Biotech. Based on the aforementioned agreement, any new patent applications will be sought from within IDIBAPS-Hospital Clínic. Once MTA has been evaluated in animals, the team will begin preclinical studies in early 2010, and, at the end of this same year, will begin Phase II clinical studies in 100 patients.

There is great interest in developing biomarkers for complex diseases such as MS that can be used to identify those patients with the most severe conditions or to predict a patient’s response to a given treatment, both of which reflect a growing trend towards personalized medicine. Metabolomics is a field of science that deals with the molecules… La metabolòmica és una tecnologia que analitza les molècules relacionades amb el metabolisme d’un organisme i que canvia amb el temps. Thus, researchers and neurologists from IDIBAPS and the Neuroimmunology-Multiple Sclerosis Department at Hospital Clínic are collaborating with Owl Genomics and Digna Biotech to develop a metabolomics based diagnostic method for prognosis of MS. Over the past few years, Hospital Clínic has made concerted efforts to obtain patent protection for, and exploit the market potential of, its research results, and to catalyze the formation of new spin-offs. In 2009 alone, the Hospital applied for more than ten patents and created three new biotech companies.



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