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New partnership to accelerate development of treatments for neurological diseases

March 17, 2017

Working together to accelerate research into neurological diseases, three leading players in Canada's health sciences sector are joining forces in a unique multi-million dollar partnership to create a novel drug development platform that will help advance new therapeutics for some of the most debilitating conditions such as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig's disease, and Parkinson's disease.

The initiative, under the banner of 'NeuroCDRD', is jointly led by The Centre for Drug Research and Development (CDRD), Canada's national drug development engine, the Montreal Neurological Institute and Hospital at McGill University (MNI), and Merck, known as MSD outside the United States and Canada. Its initial focus is the creation of a high-content hiPSC (human-induced pluripotent stem cell) screening platform that will help researchers better model neurological disease, aiming to break down barriers that have slowed the development of new treatments for neurological diseases.

Gordon McCauley, President and CEO of CDRD commented, "CDRD is a bridge, bringing together national and international partners and our respective resources to advance promising discoveries into innovative therapeutic products and improved health outcomes. This partnership is a perfect example of how we can combine the cutting-edge science of our academic partners, such as McGill, with CDRD's translational abilities, and the commercial resources of a top industry partner like Merck. It also speaks to the spirit of collaboration that exists in Canada. By working together, we are a catalyst for Canadian life sciences leading the world."

Development of new drugs for neurological diseases has long been hampered by the lack of predictive humanized models, and many treatments that have looked promising in animal studies have thus failed in subsequent human clinical trials. To mitigate this challenge, this new collaboration will use the MNI's renowned hiPSC platform and bring together experts from MNI's neurological and CDRD's drug screening and assay development teams to develop the next generation of disease-specific research models using patient-derived hiPSCs. The partnership will help significantly reduce research timelines and costs, making it possible to develop future hiPSC models for neurological diseases with smaller patient populations.

"The burden of neurological diseases and injuries on society is growing each year, and as a physician I see the impact on patients and families every day. At the Montreal Neurological Institute and Hospital, our mission is to drive forward innovation, discovery and advance patient care. We are grateful to CDRD and Merck for developing this partnership and sharing this goal with us," said Dr. Guy Rouleau, Director of the Montreal Neurological Institute and Hospital. "This initiative exemplifies our ongoing approach to R&D, building collaborative relationships among talented researchers across the country. We are confident that this partnership with CDRD and MNI has the potential to accelerate development of new treatments for neurological diseases," said Chirfi Guindo, President and Managing Director, Merck Canada Inc.
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About The Centre for Drug Research and Development (CDRD)

CDRD is Canada's national drug development and commercialization centre working in partnership with academia, industry, government and foundations. CDRD provides the specialized expertise and infrastructure to identify, validate and advance promising discoveries, and transform them into commercially viable investment opportunities for the private sector -- and ultimately into new therapies for patients. Canada's Networks of Centres of Excellence Program has recognized CDRD as a Centre of Excellence for Commercialization and Research (CECR). For more information, please visit http://www.cdrd.ca ; Twitter: @C_D_R_D

About the Montreal Neurological Institute and Hospital of McGill University

The Montreal Neurological Institute and Hospital -- The Neuro -- is a world-leading destination for brain research and advanced patient care. Since its founding in 1934 by renowned neurosurgeon Dr. Wilder Penfield, The Neuro has grown to be the largest specialized neuroscience research and clinical center in Canada, and one of the largest in the world. The seamless integration of research, patient care, and training of the world's top minds make The Neuro uniquely positioned to have a significant impact on the understanding and treatment of nervous system disorders. In 2016, The Neuro became the first institute in the world to fully embrace the Open Science philosophy, creating the Tanenbaum Open Science Institute. The iPSC platform is part of the MNI's Open Science Drug Discovery Platform. The Montreal Neurological Institute is a McGill University research and teaching institute. The Montreal Neurological Hospital is part of the Neuroscience Mission of the McGill University Health Centre. For more information, please visit http://www.theneuro.ca

About Merck

For over a century, Merck has been a global healthcare leader working to help the world be well. Merck is known as MSD outside the United States and Canada. Through our prescription medicines, vaccines, biologic therapies, and animal health products, we work with customers and operate in more than 140 countries to deliver innovative health solutions. We also demonstrate our commitment to increasing access to healthcare through far-reaching policies, programs and partnerships. For more information about our operations in Canada, visit http://www.merck.ca and connect with us on YouTube and Twitter @MerckCanada.

McGill University

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