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MorphoSys to Use BMBF Grant to Look at Protein Biomarkers for Multiple Myeloma Drug Efficacy

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By Adam Bonislawski

German pharmaceutical company MorphoSys announced this week that it has been awarded a grant of approximately €1 million ($1.26 million) by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research, or BMBF, to support development of its antibody-based multiple myeloma treatment MOR202.

The company plans to use part of the grant to research protein biomarkers indicative of the efficacy of the treatment for given patients, MorphoSys head of corporate communications Claudia Gutjahr-Loser told ProteoMonitor.

"There are well established efficacy parameters for multiple myeloma which can be investigated in clinical trials. We will use such parameters but include also some new markers that may help to understand why a patient reacts to the treatment or not," she said.

Use of protein biomarkers for determining patient populations best suited for drug treatments is an emerging technology in pharmaceutical development, noted Gutjahr-Loser.

"I think that it's really a new path. You have seen it very successfully with Herceptin [for which the protein HER2 is a biomarker] – this was I think one of the first treatments where they really looked at who was eligible for the treatment," she said. "In many cases you have patients who don't respond to treatments, and you try to find out who is the right patient population. On the one side you reduce the amount of patients you treat. On the other side the outcome and the efficacy of your drugs is much higher. So I think it's a win-win situation for everybody."

MorphoSys will be collaborating with the university hospital of Munich Technical University on the biomarker work, which is part of a broader regional project called "M4 – Personalized Medicine and Targeted Therapies – A New Dimension in Drug Development in the Munich Region."

Gutjahr-Loser declined to name any specific protein biomarkers the company is investigating, citing patent concerns.

MOR202 is a human HuCAL antibody directed against CD38, a membrane-bound glycoprotein that is a potential therapeutic target for the treatment of multiple myeloma and certain leukemias. MorphoSys expects to move the antibody into clinical trials sometime in the first quarter of 2011.

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