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Roche to partner with Inception, Versant on MS research

ZURICH (Reuters) - Swiss drugmaker Roche said it will partner with Inception Sciences Inc. and Versant Ventures on a new company to develop therapies for patients with multiple sclerosis.

The move is part of the Basel-based firm's efforts to diversify beyond its expertise in cancer by developing treatments for Alzheimer's disease, schizophrenia as well as multiple sclerosis, among other neurodegenerative disorders.

Versant will provide an undisclosed amount of equity financing to the company, while Roche will fund the research based on a series of milestones, the two said in a statement.

Roche has an option to buy the partnership, dubbed Inception 5, should a first lead compound be filed as an investigational new drug (IND).

Inception 5 will research multiple molecular targets for remyelination that have already been identified, building a remyelination screening platform developed by investigators at the University of California, Roche said.

Multiple sclerosis is an incurable and unpredictable disease, whose cause is still largely undetermined.

Its symptoms, including blurred vision, loss of balance, fatigue and paralysis, can range from relatively benign to devastating as the communication between the brain and other parts of the body is disrupted.

The condition, which affects over 400,000 people in the United States, is twice as likely to afflict women than men, according to the Multiple Sclerosis Foundation.

(Reporting By Katharina Bart, editing by Louise Heavens)

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