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News Release
March 10, 2014
Contact: Cait Healey
Phone: +1 978-715-1663

Merck Millipore Receives Grant from Massachusetts Life Sciences Center to Collaborate with Promethera Biosciences
  • $400,000 received by Merck Millipore from the Massachusetts Life Sciences Center
  • Promethera to use Merck Millipore microfluidic system for liver disease research
  • Partnership aims to improve pre-clinical liver toxicity testing methods

March 10, 2014, Darmstadt, Germany — Merck Millipore, the Life Science division of Merck, today announced they have received a $400,000 grant from the Massachusetts Life Sciences Center (MLSC) to fund a partnership with Promethera Biosciences, a Belgian pharmaceutical company whose mission is to discover, develop, and commercialize cell therapy products to treat liver diseases in an innovative way. This is one of four grants given to Life Science companies in Massachusetts to fund international collaboration as part of MLSC’s International Collaborative Industrial Program.

Through this collaboration, Merck Millipore’s microfluidic technology will enable the researchers at Promethera to mimic the liver microenvironment long-term, allowing for increased consistency and scale-up potential for live cell models. Using liver stem cells provided by Promethera and Merck Millipore’s CellASIC® microfluidic cell culture platform, both organizations strive towards improved preclinical liver toxicity testing methods. Current methods for liver toxicity testing are limited by technical challenges that the CellASIC® platform can address.

“The opportunity to work closely with Promethera over the course of the project, speaks to the nature of our organization: enabling our partners to conduct potentially life-saving research,” says Robert Yates, President and CEO of Merck Millipore. “We are looking forward to building our relationship and more importantly to the outcomes this partnership has the potential to deliver. A sincere thanks to the MLSC for the opportunity to see what this collaboration can achieve and more importantly the continued support of the Massachusetts Life Sciences industry.”

Created in 2009, Promethera Biosciences is a Belgium-based pharmaceutical company with 46 employees. Eric Halioua, Chief Executive Officer of Promethera Biosciences says, “We are very pleased to initiate this collaboration with Merck Millipore and combine expertise to develop a ready to use liver based device. We sincerely thank the Walloon region and the MLSC for the funding of this innovative project”.

"The partnership between Merck Millipore and Promethera Biosciences will help bring new health technologies to the market along with economic benefits for Massachusetts,” said Susan Windham-Bannister, Ph.D., President & CEO of the Massachusetts Life Sciences Center. “We are also excited to announce the second year of the ICIP Program, including two new partner regions in Israel and Medicon Valley. No one country or region can address on its own the urgent health challenges that still face our global community, and we are pleased to be partnering with some of the world’s leading regions in life sciences innovation. ”

This effort will span many functions and sites within the Merck Millipore network, including experts (both business and technical) in cell analysis instrumentation, research content, cell culture systems, as well as a handful of external collaborations with pharmaceutical sites including sister-company Merck Serono. The partnership was conceived by and submitted to the Massachusetts Life Sciences Center by Tim Galitski, Head of Science and Technology at Merck Millipore and Phillip Lee, New Business Initiative Lead for microfluidic technologies.

About Merck Millipore
Merck Millipore is the Life Science division of Merck KGaA of Germany and offers a broad range of innovative, performance products, services and business relationships that enable our customers’ success in research, development and production of biotech and pharmaceutical drug therapies. Through dedicated collaboration on new scientific and engineering insights, and as one of the top three R&D investors in the Life Science Tools industry, Merck Millipore serves as a strategic partner to customers and helps advance the promise of life science.

Headquartered in Billerica, Massachusetts, the division has around 10,000 employees, operations in 66 countries and 2013 revenues of €2.6 billion. Merck Millipore is known as EMD Millipore in the U.S. and Canada.

Note: Merck KGaA or Merck shall mean Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany.

About Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany  
Merck KGaA of Darmstadt, Germany, is a leading company for innovative and top-quality high-tech products in the pharmaceutical and chemical sectors. Its subsidiaries in Canada and the United States operate under the umbrella brand EMD. Around 38,000 employees work in 66 countries to improve the quality of life for patients, to further the success of customers and to help meet global challenges. The company generated total revenues of € 11.1 billion in 2013 with its four divisions: Biopharmaceuticals, Consumer Health, Performance Materials and Life Science Tools. Merck KGaA of Darmstadt, Germany is the world’s oldest pharmaceutical and chemical company – since 1668, the name has stood for innovation, business success and responsible entrepreneurship. Holding an approximately 70 percent interest, the founding family remains the majority owner of the company to this day.

About Promethera Biosciences
Promethera Biosciences is a pharmaceutical company that develops innovative therapies for the treatment of liver diseases. In addition, it is currently developing two products based on human liver progenitor cells:

  • Promethera® HepaStem is a cell therapy product based on the use of allogeneic stem cells isolated from healthy adult human livers (Heterologous Human Adult Liver Progenitor Cells, HHALPC). These cells can be used to treat a wide variety of liver diseases, from rare inborn metabolic diseases (which can be classified as "orphan diseases" and mainly affecting children), to acquired deficiencies affecting adults, such as fulminant hepatitis or liver fibrosis.
  • Promethera® H2Screen & H3Screen is a non-therapeutic in vitro product, based on a recently discovered and patented liver progenitor cell type, isolated from healthy adult human livers Thisnovel biotechnology tool is designed for early preclinical pharmaco-toxicological evaluation of drug candidates and new chemical entities.

Promethera Biosciences is a spin-off of the Université Catholique de Louvain (UCL), founded in 2009. The company is a spin-off of the lab of Professor Etienne Sokal, a leading expert in pediatric liver disease and cell. Promethera Biosciences is located in Mont-Saint-Guibert.

Since its creation in 2009, Promethera Biosciences has raised €34 million in two financial rounds, in capital, grants and loans from the Walloon Region. The main investors are Vesalius Biocapital, Mitsui Global Investment, BI Venture Fund, Shire and SRIW.

Promethera Biosciences has 46 employees led by an experienced management team.