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Cancer Institute. Mirzabekov and colleagues have aimed to create modified cell lines that could make it easier to characterize the G-protein coupled receptors, so that researchers could gain a better idea on how to create drugs that will actually block their activity, Farmer says.
MSM hasn’t taken any venture capital to date, and has gotten by on $6 million to $8 million since its founding in 2005 from angels, friends and family, and research sponsorship from at least one pharmaceutical company, AstraZeneca, Farmer says. The company has been able to keep its spending rate low partly because it has research operations in Russia, where Mirzabekov obtained his doctorate, Farmer says. It has about 24 employees, he says.
I pressed Farmer for details on the Merck KGaA deal, but he wouldn’t say much, other than it calls for the usual upfront cash payment, milestones based on success in development, and royalties on sales if the collaboration ever generates a marketed product. He added that the discovery partnership will focus on a number of targets, and that MSM will be working in one of the therapeutic areas where Merck KGaA has expertise, namely inflammation or central nervous system disorders. The Debiopharm deal is important because MSM will retain marketing rights for itself in Russia, Ukraine, and other countries in Eastern Europe and Asia, Farmer says. That collaboration is focusing on an antibody drug for cancer, called Debio 0929.
We profiled one other intriguing company going after G-protein coupled receptors in Seattle last November, called GPC-Rx (which now appears to be re-named PharmSelix). Many companies are interested in the targets, although MSM says it’s different because of its focus on developing large antibody drugs against them, instead of small-molecule chemical compounds traditionally favored by Big Pharma companies, Farmer says. He says the company is confident it’s on the right track with its mode for discovering new drugs against these hard targets. “A lot of inspiration and perspiration has gone into this,” Farmer says.