רביף: גילוי רפואי פורץ דרך
המוצר: תרופה לטיפול בטרשת נפוצה
המפתחים: פרופ' מישל רבל וחברת אינטרפרם
החברה: מכון ויצמן וחברת אינטרפרם, כיום מֶרְק תחילת הפיתוח: 1980
Product: A Drug for Multiple Sclerosis
Developers: Prof. Michel Revel and InterPharm
Company: Weizmann Institute and InterPharm (today Merck) Start of Development: 1980
Multiple Sclerosis is a severe neurological and autoimmune disease characterized by attacks that cause a decline in the central nervous system. Approximately 2.5 million people worldwide are diagnosed as suffering from MS. Until approximately 25 years ago, there was no effective treatment. This changed in 1993 with regulatory approval of interferon beta.
In the 1970s, Prof. Michel Revel and his group in the Virology and Molecular Genetics Department at the Weizmann Institute of Science, elucidated the mechanism of action of Interferon beta produced by all body cells as a protection against viruses.
Interferon beta also prevents hyperactivity of the immune system that may cause autoimmune diseases, such as MS. To produce Interferon beta in the amounts needed for medical use, Prof. Revel’s team developed a method of genetic engineering in mammalian cells that enables mass production of the complex glycoprotein. This method has become a standard in the Biotechnology Industry.
In 1984, responsibility for the drug’s development was transferred to InterPharm, established near the Weizmann Institute as a subsidiary of the Swiss pharmaceutical giant, Serono. With Prof. Revel and Prof. Menachem Rubinstein as the company’s chief scientists, InterPharm developed the medicine and success was ultimately achieved: the engineered cells were cultivated on industrial scale and the product was highly purified.
Following approximately 10 years of development and clinical trials by Serono, the drug was registered under the name Rebif®. It was one of the first drugs in the world manufactured industrially by genetic engineering of mammalian cells.
In 2006, the German Merck Group purchased Serono and has owned it since. Merck currently markets Rebif in more than 90 countries and its annual sales stand at over 1.7 billion Euros.
Merck operates manufacturing and marketing departments in Israel as well as several R&D centers.