Unraveling the MS mystery

Opexa Therapeutics and Myelin Repair Foundation partner on MS program

Amy Swinderman
THE WOODLANDS, Texas—Hoping to bolster the development of novel diagnostics and treatments for multiple sclerosis (MS), Opexa Therapeutics Inc., which develops patient-specific cellular therapies for autoimmune diseases, has established a research partnership with the Myelin Repair Foundation (MRF), a non-profit MS research network of leading academic scientists.

Opexa and MRF will focus on identifying therapeutically relevant biomarkers in MS that may accelerate the development of Tovaxin, Opexa's T-cell vaccine currently in Phase IIb clinical testing in MS patients. In addition, biomarkers identified as part of the research program may also be used in the discovery and development of other MS diagnostics and treatments.

The collaboration will be jointly managed, and each party will retain any intellectual property (IP) it generates. IP conceived collaboratively will be jointly owned, with Opexa retaining the option to negotiate an exclusive license for any IP arising from the partnership.

Opexa President and CEO Neil Warma says the data generated from MRF's analysis of the patient samples from the Phase IIb Tovaxin study will provide valuable insight into the treatment of the disease. Two-year follow-up data from Tovaxin's Phase I/II clinical studies demonstrated that 73 percent of patients on Tovaxin remained relapse-free after two years, while 86 percent experienced no disease progression.

"We think that combining our expertise with MRF's vast network of experts in this field will bring about what we believe is one of the more exciting therapies for MS," Warma says.

But the partnership has a broader goal of developing a better understanding of the causes and mechanisms that give rise to MS, Warma says.

"Over the past few years, we've seen a lot of products on the market that attack the symptoms of the MS, but we need to understand more about the root cause of the disease, which will enable us to generate new therapies or find ways to reverse some of the damage done by MS," Warma says. 

As MRF celebrates its fifth anniversary, CEO Russell Bromley says he is excited about the potential to develop and commercialize personalized MS treatments. He adds that MRF's research efforts will be significantly enhanced by gaining access to Opexa's patient data.

"No national registry of MS patients exists today, but companies like Opexa collect detailed records on patients over long periods of time," Bromley says. "In the case of trying to find biomarkers, in a perfect world, we'd be able to get samples from a patient at multiple points in time. This partnership will enable us to do that." DDN

Amy Swinderman

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