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Merck & Co to buy IO specialists Immune Design for $300m

US giant looks to next generation technology

msd

Immunotherapy leader Merck & Co/MSD is to acquire a vaccine specialist firm Immune Design for $300m

The move is aimed at helping the pharma giant consolidate its dominance in the field of immunotherapy (IO), where its checkpoint inhibitor Keytruda leads with annual sales of $7bn in 2018.

The race is now on to find the next generation IO mechanism which could unlock greater benefits for patients across a range of diseases, and not just cancer.

Big pharma, biotech and academia are zeroing in on a range of immune system mechanisms which could prove crucial to fighting diverse diseases.

The acquisition is significant, not least because it has been some time since Merck & Co. last went shopping for a new bolt-on technology.

Immune Design is a late-stage immunotherapy company using its own next-generation in vivo approaches to enable the body's immune system to fight disease. The company's technologies, GLAAS and ZVex, are engineered to activate the immune system's natural ability to generate and/or expand antigen-specific cytotoxic immune cells to fight cancer and other chronic diseases.

Merck & Co. have moved in to buy the Seattle-based company at an opportunistic time, as the firm suffered setbacks to its in-house development pipeline in October last year. The big pharma company's head of R&D, Roger Perlmutter has clearly identified some potential synergies between Immune Design's capabilities and its own pipeline, and has swooped to acquire the firm.

Roger Perlmutter

Merck's R&D chief Roger Perlmutter

“Scientists at Immune Design have established a unique portfolio of approaches to cancer immunisation and adjuvant systems designed to enhance the ability of a vaccine to protect against infection, which could meaningfully improve vaccine development," said Dr. Roger Perlmutter. “This acquisition builds upon Merck’s industry-leading programmes that harness the power of the immune system to prevent and treat disease.”

“Merck has a rich history of discovery and innovation and a strong track record of developing meaningful therapeutics and vaccines,” said Dr. Carlos Paya, president and chief executive officer, Immune Design. “We believe this agreement creates shareholder value by positioning our technologies and capabilities for long-term success with a leading, research-driven biopharmaceutical company.”

Article by
Andrew McConaghie

21st February 2019

From: Research

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