Genzyme funds MS academic post at Cambridge University

Genzyme has made a US$6m gift that will fund a key clinical academic post at Cambridge University.

Global biotechnology firm Genzyme Corporation, which has operations in Cambridge and across the UK, has made a US$6m gift that will fund a key clinical academic post at the university dedicated to the advancement of fundamental and translational research in the field of multiple sclerosis (MS) and other neuroimmunological diseases.

"By creating this dedicated clinical academic post, we are ensuring continued progress against this disease where there is substantial unmet medical need," said Genzyme senior executive Mark Enyedy, who has primary responsibility for the company's multiple sclerosis programme.

Alastair Compston, Professor of Neurology and the head of the Department of Clinical Neurosciences at the University of Cambridge, added: "It also provides an opportunity to understand the nature of human autoimmunity. We hope that in due course this funding will enable us to endow a clinical professorship."

Compston and lecturer Alasdair Coles have already been working with Genzyme on advancing new therapeutic concepts for treating MS.

Alemtuzumab, the first humanised monoclonal antibody developed at the University of Cambridge, is being developed clinically by Genzyme and is in phase III trials for assessment in patients with early relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis.

Compston and Coles pioneered the early clinical development of alemtuzumab in MS, and were lead investigators of a Genzyme-sponsored phase II trial of alemtuzumab in 2008.

The Genzyme and Cambridge research teams are also developing therapeutic markers to understand the best course of treatment with the drug.

"It is possible that through our ongoing work we could develop personalised medicine approaches to support optimal patient care," said Coles.

Genzyme recently doubled the size of its research facilities at Cambridge Science Park, which is the company's first discovery laboratory outside the US. The expanded site will employ 90 people. The facility's highly skilled personnel also provide essential clinical trial support across Europe.

According to UK Multiple Sclerosis Society estimates, approximately 100,000 people in the UK have MS. The disease is estimated to affect 2.5 million people worldwide.