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Evotec, Harvard Stem Cell Institute Launch ALS Partnership

By Bio-IT World Staff 
September 12, 2013 | Evotec and the Harvard Stem Cell Institute (HSCI) launched a strategic partnership to identify compounds that prevent or slow the loss of motor neurons, which is characteristic of the human disease amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). The collaboration, called CureMN (CureMotorNeuron), will leverage Evotec’s drug discovery infrastructure to identify compounds that will have therapeutic value and human motor neuron assays based on ALS patient-derived induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells that were developed by Lee Rubin and Kevin Eggan, both HSCI Principal Faculty members and professors in the Department of Stem Cell and Regenerative Biology. 
This agreement marks the third collaboration between Evotec and the Harvard Stem Cell Institute and the fourth with Harvard scientists. Evotec has also reached an agreement in principal with PatientsLikeMe on approaches to rapidly evaluate any patient-testable theories about progression or pathways that might express themselves in ALS patients.
No financials were disclosed.
“Kevin and Lee have made significant contributions to our understanding of the underlying pathology of motor neuron diseases. Their laboratories have developed a large array of ALS patient-derived motor neuron models that allow screening of diseased human cells in culture—an approach that is sometimes referred to as a ‘clinical trial in a dish’,” said Cord Dohrmann, CSO of Evotec in a statement. “Our intention is to systematically screen for new mechanisms, targets and compounds that have the potential to be developed into new products that will modify and ideally halt the progression of ALS and potentially other motor neuron diseases.”
Vivian Berlin, director of business development in Harvard’s Office of Technology Development added, “Phenotypic screens based on patient-derived iPS cells are an exciting approach to tackle diseases where tractable mechanisms have remained elusive. Evotec’s proven expertise in high-content screening and deep knowledge in the field of motor neurons is a perfect match for this project. In this latest collaborative effort with Evotec, we look forward to putting our combined dedication and knowledge to work identifying new therapeutics for motor neuron diseases.”
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