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GMSI Award 2015 – Our Commitment to Multiple Sclerosis and Immunology

Steven Hildemann


This lecture was given at the Grant for Multiple Sclerosis Innovation Awards Event, 8th October 2015. The GMSI award was supported by Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany

Professor Hildemann is Professor at Freiburg University and the Global Chief Medical Officer of Merck Serono.

Merck-Serono's pipeline focuses on difficult to treat diseases with a high unmet medical need, in the four areas of oncology, immuno-oncology, immunology and multiple sclerosis.

According to Professor Hildemann, drugs in development include avelumab, a substance that restores the body's ability to fight cancer. This is being investigated in phases I, II and III, in collaboration with Pfizer. About 30 clinical studies are planned in the course of next year. This will be the largest clinical development plan ever and may be a total game changer. Treatments in development for autoimmune disease include MSB 0010841, an anti IL-17 nanobody, and atacicept, a bivalent fusion protein.

Merck Serono's commitment to multiple sclerosis has lasted for more than 20 years. This is a two pronged approach of innovative in house research and highly productive external collaborations. Merck Serono offers comprehensive patient support programs and continuous product innovation.

Professor Hildemann said that treatments under development for multiple sclerosis include ATX-MS-1467 and Tcekna TM (imilecleucel-T). ATX-MS-1467 is an immune tolerizing agent that contains 4 synthetic soluble peptide T-cell epitopes. This is intended to suppress the autoimmune reaction to the myelin sheath.

Tcekna TM (imilecleucel-T) is an autologous T-cell immunotherapy to isolate, expand and irradiate T cells from the individual patient. The cells are then reinfused, in order to produce individualized suppression in each patient.  

According to Professor Hildemann, sensitive surrogate markers are needed that permit early detection of treatment effects in multiple sclerosis that translate into long-term disability benefits. Two approaches are possible in principle, either the use of novel MRI measures - such as cortical atrophy, brain atrophy, spinal cord atrophy and lesions or chronic black holes - or of composite measures - such as the modified Rio score, that incorporates relapses and MRI lesions. 

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