Lead Discovery Center and Merck develop new anti-cancer compounds together

Research collaboration may realize the potential of kinase inhibitors as a means for cancer treatments in the future

January 26, 2011

The Lead Discovery Center GmbH, a small molecule drug discovery spin-off of Max Planck Innovation GmbH, has signed a cooperation agreement with Merck KGaA for the discovery of kinase inhibitors as potential cancer treatments. The collaboration is supported by the German Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) under the BioPharma initiative to strengthen the pharmaceutical value chain in Germany. Using an innovative kinase technology platform originating from the Chemical Genomics Centre of the Max Planck Society (CGC, Dortmund), Merck Serono, a division of Merck KGaA, and the Lead Discovery Center aim to identify inhibitory compounds against at least one undisclosed kinase target and advance them through the drug discovery process up to pharmaceutical lead compounds.

Kinases are key components of biochemical signalling pathways that control cellular growth, metabolism and differentiation. They have thus become prime targets for drug discovery and development in many diseases, especially in oncology. "Our proprietary technology allows for the identification of innovative allosteric kinase inhibitors that hold strong potential for improved potency and selectivity," says Daniel Rauh, group leader at the CGC. "We are excited about the alliance between the Lead Discovery Center and Merck Serono as it provides us with the unique chance to translate our approach into application."

Under the terms of the agreement, the Lead Discovery Center and Merck Serono will work closely together, with each partner contributing its particular expertise and infrastructure as well as their own resources in the fields of assay development, screening, medicinal chemistry and pharmacology. "We are delighted about this agreement with the Lead Discovery Center and believe that this collaboration has great potential to provide the basis for the development of further treatment options in oncology," said Bernhard Kirschbaum, Executive Vice President, Research and Development, at Merck Serono.

"Merck Serono is a recognized leader in drug discovery and development and we are extremely pleased to team up with them," Bert Klebl, Managing Director of the Lead Discovery Center, adds. "The alliance is a major milestone for us and could well become a role model for highly efficient and professional collaboration between academia and industry. It verifies Lead Discovery Center’s positioning as a translational research center with the aim of leveraging excellent academic research for industrial application and the development of medicines."

The Lead Discovery Center GmbH was jointly developed by Max Planck Innovation and the Max Planck Society as a novel approach to advance findings from excellent basic research into the development of medicines. As an independent enterprise with an entrepreneurial outlook, it is positioned as a translational research center specialized in small molecule drug discovery. LDC collaborates with research institutions and universities as well as with industry. The aim is to transform promising and early-stage projects into pharmaceutical leads that reach initial proof-of-concept in animals and that meet the increasing need for novel therapeutic agents.

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