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Merck & Co adds to immunotherapy again with $773m Tilos buy

Specialises in TGFβ complex-targeting therapies


Merck & Co is to acquire Tilos Therapeutics, a privately held biopharma specialising in novel immunotherapies, for up to $773m.

The acquisition announced today shows that Merck (MSD outside North America) is determined to consolidate and expand the dominant position it has taken in immuno-oncology thanks to PD-1 blockbuster Keytruda.

It adds to a string of recent mid-sized purchases in the field by the company, including OncoEthix in December, ImmuneDesign in February and Peloton last month, as the company looks ahead to find the next generation of immune-related drug therapies.

Lexington, Mass-based Tilos specialises in targeting the latent TGFβ complex, which plays a role not only in cancer, but also fibrosis and autoimmune diseases.

TGFβ is a potent cytokine believed to play an important role in the development of a number of immune-related conditions, and is secreted as a complex with the protein, latency-associated peptide (LAP). LAP forms a cage around TGFβ, holding the cytokine in an inactive state until it is deployed.

Evidence has shown that anti-LAP antibodies block the release of TGFβ from the TGFβ-LAP complex with the potential to provide a novel therapeutic mechanism to reduce TGFβ activity.

“At Merck we continue to enhance our robust pipeline through active execution of our business development strategy," said Dr. Dean Li, senior vice president, discovery and translational medicine, Merck Research Laboratories. “Tilos has developed a compelling portfolio of candidates that employ a novel approach to modulating the potent signalling molecule TGFβ by binding to latency-associated peptide, with potential applications across a range of disease indications.”

Merck will acquire all outstanding shares of Tilos for total potential consideration of up to $773 million, including an upfront payment as well as contingent milestone payments.

“We are proud that the Tilos team has advanced the discoveries of our scientific founders by developing a portfolio of anti-LAP antibodies designed to realise the full potential of TGFβ-modulating therapeutics,” said Dr. Barbara Fox,chief executive, Tilos. “This agreement with Merck, an industry leader in biopharmaceutical research and development, provides meaningful validation for our therapeutic approach and best positions our pipeline for broad clinical and commercial success.”

Tilos was founded by Boehringer Ingelheim Venture Fund and Partners Innovation Fund, based on discoveries by the laboratory of Dr. Howard Weiner at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School. Additional investment was provided by ShangPharma Innovation Fund.

Article by
Andrew McConaghie

20th June 2019

From: Research



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