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Merck KGaA to research cancer drug with Chinese biotech

German pharma firm teams up with BeiGene on BRAF inhibitor

Merck KGaA HQ Darmstadt

Merck KGaA has entered a collaboration with China-based biotech BeiGene to research a new treatment for cancer.

The compound, currently known as BeiGene-283, is a second-generation BRAF inhibitor and is expected to enter clinical development in 2014.

It is designed to work by hindering the action of the BRAF protein, which is thought to play a part in the promotion of cancer cell growth and has been found to be mutated in some cancer patients.

BRAF inhibitors already on the market include Bayer/ Onyx Pharmaceuticals' Nexavar (sorafenib) for kidney and liver cancer and Roche's Zelboraf (vemurafenib) for skin cancer.

The agreement sees Merck pay BeiGene an undisclosed upfront fee as well as several clinical and commercial milestones.

BeiGene will be responsible for the development and commercialisation of BeiGene-283 in China, with Merck to handle development and commercialisation responsibilities in all other countries.

“Today's announcement reflects our commitment to forge strategic partnerships in China with companies focusing on innovation,” said Dr Susan Jane Herbert, head of global business development and strategy for Merck's pharma division Merck Serono.

This includes the company's commitment made in 2009 to invest €150m in R&D in China, including the establishment of a global research and development centre in Beijing.

And just this year, Merck Serono announced it was to team up with Bristol-Myers Squibb to co-promote the Glucophage (merformin) diabetes brand in China.

BeiGene has made deals with large Western pharma companies before, including an agreement with Janssen to in-license and co-develop the oncology compounds intetumumab and MTKi-327.

The company's CEO and founder John Oyler commented on the latest deal: “We are very much looking forward to collaborating with Merck around BeiGene-283. Our collaboration will accelerate the global development and commercialisation of this novel, China-discovered oncology innovation, something we could not have achieved alone.”

3rd June 2013

From: Research

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