CAMBRIDGE, England, March 4, 2010 /PRNewswire/ -- The University of Cambridge announced today that Genzyme Corporation, a diversified, global biotechnology company with significant operations in Cambridge and across the United Kingdom, has made a generous benefaction to endow a key clinical academic post at the university dedicated to the advancement of fundamental and translational research in the field of multiple sclerosis and other neuroimmunological diseases. The gift from Genzyme builds upon an ongoing multiple sclerosis research collaboration with the University of Cambridge.

Genzyme is focused on making a significant difference in the lives of people with multiple sclerosis, said Genzyme senior executive Mark Enyedy, who has primary responsibility for the company's multiple sclerosis program. By creating this dedicated clinical academic post, we are ensuring continued progress against this disease where there is substantial unmet medical need. We are also further extending our successful research partnership with one of the leading neuroscience programs in the world.

This important gift is critical in maintaining the steady progress we have made towards defining the basis for treatment of multiple sclerosis and other neuroimmunological diseases, said Alastair Compston, Professor of Neurology and the head of the Department of Clinical Neurosciences at the University of Cambridge, United Kingdom. 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.

Genzyme and University of Cambridge researchers Alastair Compston and University Lecturer Alasdair Coles have been working together on advancing new therapeutic concepts for treating multiple sclerosis.

Alemtuzumab, the first humanized monoclonal antibody developed at the University of Cambridge, is being developed clinically by Genzyme and is in pivotal phase 3 trials for assessment in patients with early relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis. Professor Compston and Dr. Coles pioneered the early clinical development of alemtuzumab in multiple sclerosis, and were lead investigators of a Genzyme sponsored phase 2 trial of alemtuzumab published in the New England Journal of Medicine in 2008.

A four-year analysis of a sub-group of patients from the phase 2 trial was presented last year at the European Committee for Treatment and Research in Multiple Sclerosis. The four-year findings are consistent with the extended duration of response observed in our early studies with alemtuzumab in patients with relapsing multiple sclerosis, said Professor Compston. The phase 2 data are promising and we are continuing to understand the potential benefits and safety profile of alemtuzumab in the phase 3 trials.

The Genzyme and University of 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 personalized medicine approaches to support optimal patient care, said Dr. Coles.

Cambridge in America - the US Foundation working on behalf of the collegiate University - allocated the gift from Genzyme Corporation of approximately $6 million (US) to support an endowed key clinical academic post. The funding will provide consistent salary support and allow the faculty member to pursue novel areas of fundamental and translational research. The university academic faculty member will also see patients at the Cambridge University Hospitals.

Genzyme is also committed to the communities where we have operations, said Enyedy. In the United Kingdom, we benefit from the combined talents of some 600 people in cutting-edge medical research, manufacturing, and in drug and diagnostic marketing.

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

According to the United Kingdom Multiple Sclerosis Society estimates, approximately 100,000 people in the UK have multiple sclerosis. Worldwide, multiple sclerosis is estimated to affect 2.5 million individuals. The disease causes a wide range of symptoms including difficulty walking, numbness, fatigue and impairment of vision, and usually progresses to permanent, severe disability. Relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis is the most common presenting form of the disease.

About alemtuzumab

Alemtuzumab is an investigational drug under development for the treatment of multiple sclerosis and must not be used in this context outside of formal, regulated clinical trial setting in which appropriate patient monitoring measures are in place.

Safety data from the phase 2 trial show that approximately 28 percent of alemtuzumab-treated patients developed an autoimmune thyroid-related adverse event. These events either normalized spontaneously or were managed using conventional therapies. There have been no additional or recurrent events of immune thrombocytopenic purpura (ITP) reported from this trial. An alemtuzumab-treated patient who developed Goodpasture's disease (anti-GBM disease) at month 51 continues to have stable renal function following medical treatment. Patient monitoring for ITP, thyroid disorders and anti-GBM disease is incorporated into all Genzyme-sponsored trials of alemtuzumab for the treatment of multiple sclerosis.

Common non-serious adverse events in the trial included infusion-associated reactions. Some Alemtuzumab-treated patients experienced infections, particularly of the upper respiratory tract; infections were predominantly mild to moderate in severity and there were no life-threatening or fatal infections. Serious infections were limited in number.

About Genzyme

One of the world's leading biotechnology companies, Genzyme is dedicated to making a major positive impact on the lives of people with serious diseases. Since 1981, the company has grown from a small start-up to a diversified enterprise with more than 12,000 employees in locations spanning the globe and 2008 revenues of $4.6 billion.

With many established products and services helping patients in approximately 100 countries, Genzyme is a leader in the effort to develop and apply the most advanced technologies in the life sciences. The company's products and services are focused on rare inherited disorders, kidney disease, orthopaedics, cancer, transplant and immune disease, and diagnostic testing. Genzyme's commitment to innovation continues today with a substantial development program focused on these fields, as well as cardiovascular disease, neurodegenerative diseases, and other areas of unmet medical need.

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Media Contact: Media Contact: Becky Allen John Lacey University of Cambridge Genzyme Corporation +44(0)1223-765542 +1-617-768-6690

SOURCE: Genzyme

CONTACT: Media Contact: Becky Allen, University of Cambridge,+44(0)1223-765542,; Media Contact:, John Lacey,Genzyme Corporation, +1-617-768-6690,