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MYORES, a European network of excellence with a focus on developing therapies for muscle pathologies, held its first meeting recently in Clermont-Ferrand, France. MYORES brings together 37 research groups in seven countries who will work toward the understanding of muscle development, function and repair.

The network will receive EUR 12 million in funding as part of the European Commission's 6th Framework Program for Research and Technological Development.

More than 300,000 people in Europe are affected by various muscular dystrophies, organizers of the network said, adding that muscular degeneration is one of the most incapacitating features of aging.

The network resources include:

  • The pooling of European expertise. The network will include 37 different laboratories from 23 research organizations in seven countries.
  • Sharing of six high-technology platforms, three of which will be created as part of MYORES' research program. These platforms, which will be supported by an operating budget of EUR 1.5 million, will focus on gene attenuation using interfering RNA, at the University of Padua (Italy) and University of Lyon (France); drosophila transgenesis, at Inserm (Clermont-Ferrand, France); and in vivo electroporation, at the University of Marseille-Luminy, also in France.

Three other shared platforms will focus on proteomics and microchips, at the European Molecular Biology Laboratory (Heidelberg, Germany), and Kings College London; molecular modeling, at York University (York, UK); and molecular imaging, at the University of Marseille-Luminy, the University of East Anglia in the UK and the Euro-pean Center for Research into Molecular Biology (Strasbourg, France).

Data resulting from work on these platforms will be assembled in a common database, MYOBASE, to facilitate and accelerate access to results for all the network members.

  • A new multi-model approach. MYORES will carry out research simultaneously on six different animal models, including invertebrates, primitive vertebrates chicken and mice. The organizers said the goal is to identify as quickly as possible, in simple organisms that are well known and understood, the function and role of common genetic denominators that are implicated in muscular development and that have been conserved during species evolution, particularly in humans.

This, they said, will enable scientists to gain a better understanding of the molecular mechanisms involved in human muscle repairing systems.

  • Fast-track application of results. The MYORES network also will aim to disseminate the results obtained from different models and to apply them to specific human muscular pathologies. EUR 1 million has been earmarked for MYORES to encourage smalland medium-sized enterprises to use these results in the development of new therapies.

Inserm, the French national institute for health and medical research, will be in charge of the scientific coordination of MYORES. Inserm-Transfert's responsibility will in-clude day-to-day management of resources and logistical and organizational support. Lionel Segard, CEO of Inserm-Transfert, said, “The setting up of this network shows how quickly scientists have embraced the culture of partnership and sharing.“

Dermatology unit spun out

Schering (Berlin) has spun out its dermatology operations into a wholly owned subsidiary that will be known as Intendis. The company said that it would be a fully integrated pharmaceutical firm, developing and marketing treatments for skin disorders.

Intendis initially will concentrate on eczema, psoriasis, acne, rosacea and fungal infections while broadening its global reach.

“The reason for the separate business is that we can give dermatology the attention it needs, focusing entirely on dermatology and our key customers,“ said Wolfgang Kehr, Intendis chairman. “We will start by growing our business with the current portfolio [of drugs] and then aiming for 8% annual growth through organic growth and our pipeline.“

Intendis is a limited liability corporation, rather than a joint stock company.

Detlev Hessenbruch, the company's CFO, said, “For us, this is not the right time to go public. We have to focus on developing markets and products.“ He did not rule out a future attempt.

As a part of Schering it brought in net sales of about $200 million in 2004. It also has a treatment for psoriasis that is in Phase I testing and treatments for nail mycosis and for eczema that are in preclinical testing.

“We will consider acquisitions, in-licensing and partnerships with biotech companies“ to increase the company's pipeline, Kehr said. “We are looking wherever we can find opportunities.“ He added: “We are not under great pressure, however, because we have a number of products to launch in 2005, 2006 and 2007.“ Those products are largely new formulations of existing products.

Eugene O'Keefe, director for development, acknowledged the gaps in the company's pipeline. “We would like to fill them, and the best way is through in-licensing projects.“

Intendis will continue internal research as well. “We will have an exclusive option for dedicated dermatology substances going through the Schering research process,“ Kehr said.

Alliance aimed at cancer diagnostics

Institut Curie (Paris) and Affymetrix (Santa Clara, California) have formed an alliance that will use the latter's GeneChip microarray technology in large-scale clinical studies to produce genetic signatures for different types of can-cer and be used to develop diagnostic tests.

Institut Curie will conduct the studies from its translational medicine division. The first two projects will focus on identifying genetic markers for cancer prognosis.

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