Roche has hooked up with healthcare venture capitalist group Versant and research group Inception Sciences to create a new biotechnology company focused on developing treatments for multiple sclerosis.

Crowned Inception 5, the newcomer will dedicate itself to designing novel small molecule therapies that promote the remyelination of nerve sheaths damaged during disease progression, building on recent discoveries by researchers at the University of California, San Francisco. 

Under the terms of the deal, Versant will stump up equity financing for the new company while Roche will fund the research based on a series of milestones. 

Roche has option to buy

The Swiss drug giant also holds an exclusive option to buy Inception 5 when the first lead compound reaches the filing stage of an investigational new drug (IND) application.

“The unique deal construct lends itself well to exploring exciting, groundbreaking new science and jointly de-risking early stage research with Versant/Inception," said Shafique Virani, Global Head of Neuroscience Partnering at Roche, explaining the firm's interest in the deal.

With 12 investigational medicines in clinical development neuroscience is now a major focus of research and development at Roche. The group is also separately assessing the antibody ocrelizumab, which selectively targets CD20+ B cells believed to contribute to nerve damage MS, in a Phase III clinical program.