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Merck Serono, Kadimastem collaborate on cell-based drug screening

TEL AVIV (Reuters) - Merck Serono and Israel's Kadimastem signed a memorandum of understanding aimed at advancing their stem cell-based drug screening collaboration initiated in 2012, the companies said on Monday.

Kadimastem has developed technologies to differentiate stem cells into oligodendrocytes, which are brain cells that produce myelin, the insulation for the neural wiring.

In multiple sclerosis (MS), oligodendrocytes are destroyed by the immune system. Kadimastem and Merck Serono have been leveraging cell-based drug screening technology to discover compounds that stimulate differentiation and myelination.

Such compounds may lead to new therapeutics for MS, mainly in those stages where current drugs that affect the immune system have no more therapeutic use.

"Kadimastem offers us a unique, human-cell based, screening model allowing us to better identify promising compounds at an earlier stage in development," Annalisa Jenkins, head of global development and medical for Merck Serono, said.

Michel Revel, Kadimastem chief scientific officer and developer of Merck Serono's MS drug Rebif, said he believes Kadimastem's stem cell technologies have tremendous potential for the discovery of new therapeutic agents for neurodegenerative diseases as well as diabetes.

Merck Serono is the biopharmaceutical division of Germany's Merck KGaA.

(Reporting by Tova Cohen)

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