WOBURN, Mass.—In its continuing mission to make a more seamless bridge for imaging biological activity from animals into people, VisEn Medical has entered into a multiyear joint research and development program with Merck & Co. to develop and apply a range of fluorescence imaging agents for real-time imaging of key disease biomarkers in vivo.
Agents developed through the Merck-VisEn Biomarker Imaging Program will be used as in vivo imaging tools for measuring disease progression and therapeutic response in Merck's drug discovery programs initially. However, they will also be further commercialized by VisEn to be used for more broadly set imaging standards in drug discovery and development. The agreement expands on collaborative work already ongoing between the two companies in disease area imaging and data development.
No specific financial details of the deal have been disclosed.
"By providing real-time readouts of disease-related biomarkers in vivo, molecular imaging has the potential to transform drug discovery and advance molecular medicine," said Dr. Richard Hargreaves, vice president of imaging for Merck. "It is our goal to integrate VisEn imaging technologies into Merck programs to help us understand and develop the next generation of targeted therapeutic candidates and perhaps establish new standards for the identification and assessment of disease."
This deal is reminiscent of one struck late last year with Eli Lilly and Co., in which VisEn is expanding the capabilities and accelerating the adoption of its in vivo fluorescence technologies for Lilly's research and development programs.
"Our goal in all that we do is to have products that seamlessly bridge preclinical and clinical activity," says Kirtland G. Poss, president and CEO of VisEn. "The key to really effectively using knowledge of biological activity is to have a data continuum from cells to animals to people. That continuum is what enables better understanding of disease processes and better decisions in preclinical work, trials and treatment. And that's why we continue to work to get our products into the clinical space. We need standards that can become FDA-regulatable."
One key way VisEn is doing that right now is with deals like the Merck and Lilly ones, Poss says, as they allow his company to build on preclinical work already being performed with such companies. He says he expects VisEn's first fluorescence imaging agent to be in the clinics by 2008, which Poss says will be "an important point in our evolution of the use of these agents in drug development programs."