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Merck KGaA furthers antibody ambitions in cancer

Signs deal with Mersana to develop antibody-drug conjugates
Merck KGaA HQ Darmstadt

Germany's Merck KGaA is keeping the pressure on its rivals in oncology by signing a deal with US-based biotech Mersana to develop next-generation cancer treatments.

Merck, via its biopharma division Merck Serono, will use Mersana's technology in polymer linking to create antibody-drug conjugates (ADCs).

These ADCs are an emerging class of cancer treatment that combine a disease-targeting antibody to another compound, typically a cytotoxic, to enhance their activity.

Of the few ADCs to have hit the market so far, the most promising is Roche's much-touted follow up to Herceptin (trastuzumab) Kadcyla, which combines the antibody Herceptin with a cytotoxic payload.

The drug has demonstrated impressive results in clinical trials and has made a significant impact since its approvals in the US and EU last year, with total sales of just over 100m Swiss francs (about €82m) for the first three months of 2014.

Merck is now looking to up the competition in the field through its collaboration with Mersana, which is to make use of several of the German pharma company's monoclonal antibodies.

These may include Erbitux (cetuximab), which is approved to treat colon cancer and head and neck cancer, as well as monoclonal antibodies in development, such as MSB0010718C, an anti-PD-L1.

No financial details of the deal were given, although Merck confirmed that Mersana will receive an upfront payment and milestones. Merck Serono will be responsible for clinical development and commercialisation of any products developed as part of the deal.

In addition to strengthening its cancer pipeline, Merck said the deal reinforced its commitment to partnering.

“The agreement further underlines Merck Serono's approach to employ a collaborative research and development model, creating strategic partnerships to drive innovation, being consciously agnostic of the source of potential novel assets, and technologies,” said the company in a statement.

Article by
Thomas Meek

24th June 2014

From: Research

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