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Merck & Co licenses HIV drugs from Chimerix and Yamasa

US pharma company also advances internal HIV pipeline

Merck & Co has agreed two separate deals with Chimerix and Yamasa to license investigational treatments for HIV.

The US company will acquire CMX157, an oral nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitor, from North Carolina-based biotech Chimerix in a deal potentially worth up to $168.5m.

This figure includes an upfront fee of $17.5m and milestone payments of $151m.

In return, Merck will receive an exclusive worldwide licence for CMX157 and will be responsible for the drug's development and commercialisation.

The deal comes shortly after the completion of a phase I trial involving CMX157 that demonstrated a favourable safety profile in healthy volunteers.

Now, Merck will look to advance development of the drug, which has a novel structure that is hoped to reduce kidney-related side effects associated with tenofovir-based HIV treatments.

The agreement will also help Chimerix develop its additional HIV treatments, according to the company's president and CEO Kenneth Moch.

“The value created through the licensure of CMX157 will help us continue to advance our lead compound, CMX001, through its critical phase III trial, for which we currently plan to begin enroling patients early next year."

In addition, Merck announced it has agreed a deal with Japanese company Yamasa to purchase EFdA, another nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitor candidate that is currently in preclinical development.

According to Merck, the drug has shown antiviral activity toward highly resistant HIV strains.

As with the Chimerix deal, Merck will pay an upfront fee and future milestone payments in return for exclusive worldwide license rights.

Merck also announced the progression of its internal HIV efforts, with plans to advance into phase II clinical trial its own HIV drug candidate, MK-1439.

Like CMX157 and EFdA, this compound is a non-nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitor and Merck is planning to launch a comparison study with efavirenz to evaluate the safety, tolerability and efficacy of MK-1439. The trial is expected to commence in September, 2012.

25th July 2012

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