Merck & Co has agreed a deal to develop and commercialise biosimilars with Samsung Bioepis – a joint venture between Samsung Biologics and Biogen Idec.
The companies have provided little information about the deal, with both potential therapy area targets and the upfront fee paid by Merck remaining undisclosed.
Speaking to PMLiVE, a Merck spokesperson said that these details will be revealed some point “down the road”.
As it stands, Samsung Bioepis is responsible for preclinical and clinical development of multiple biosimilar candidates, as well as process development and manufacturing, clinical trials and registration.
Merck will then take over when it comes to commercialisation, with Samsung Bioepis eligible for additional milestone payments.
The deal comes two years after Merck boosted its efforts into biosimilars by signing a deal with contract research organisation Parexel to develop biosimilar candidates covering several therapy areas.
The US-based pharma company was keen to point out the deal complements its internal efforts in biosimilars, which includes Merck BioVentures – a research team developing several candidates, such as a granulocyte colony stimulating factor (GCSF) candidate, a pegylated GCSF and a biosimilar etanercept candidate.
The latest deal is also significant for Samsung, which although it is best known for its communications and IT interests has been developing apace in healthcare. The efforts of its Samsung Biologics division led to a $300m deal with Biogen in December 2011 to form the Korea-based venture Samsung Bioepis.
When signing the deal, Samsung and minority partner Biogen agreed that Samsung Bioepsis would not develop biosimilars of Biogen's medicines, meaning Merck too will be unable to do so
as part of its partnership.
“Samsung Bioepis has been building the capabilities needed to develop high-quality biosimilars,” said Dr Christopher Hansung Ko, CEO of Samsung Bioepis.
“With [the Merck] development and commercialisation agreement, Samsung takes a significant step toward becoming a major player in the biopharmaceutical industry.”