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Merck strengthens oncology pipeline with $2.75bn VelosBio deal

The deal will give Merck control of VLS-101, an antibody-drug conjugate

Merck & Co (MSD) has agreed to acquire VelosBio for $2.75bn, giving MSD access to a number of potential cancer treatments in the process.

VelosBio is developing first-in-class cancer therapies that target receptor tyrosine kinase-like orphan receptor1 (ROR1), which is believed to be over-expressed in a number of cancer types.

Through its acquisition of VelosBio, Merck will take control of the biotech’s lead asset – VLS-101 – an antibody-drug conjugate (ADC) targeting ROR1.

VLS-101 is currently being studied in phase 1 and phase 2 trials for the treatment of patients with haematological malignancies and solid tumours, respectively.

According to Merck, VLS-101 demonstrated a ‘manageable’ safety profile along with initial signs of anti-tumour activity in early clinical trials.

Results from a phase 1 clinical trial of the ADC, which are due to be presented at the upcoming virtual American Society of Hematology Annual Meeting, demonstrated that VLS-101 treatment resulted in objective clinical responses in 47% of patients with mantle cell lymphoma (MCL) and 80% of patients with diffuse large B-cell lymphoma (DLBCL).

Of the 15 MCL patients included in the trial, seven experienced objective responses after receiving the ADC. In the DLBCL group, four of the five patients who were treated with VLS-101 had objective responses. According to VelosBio, some patients within the phase 1 trial had complete responses following treatment with the ADC.

Notably, patients included in this trial had been heavily pretreated with other anticancer medications, after their tumours had failed to respond or the patients had relapsed after responding to initial treatments.

In October, VelosBio announced that it has initiated a phase 2 clinical trial set to investigate VLS-101 for the treatment of patients with solid tumours, including patients with triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC), hormone receptor-positive and/or HER2-positive breast cancer and non-squamous non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC).

“At Merck, we continue to bolster our growing oncology pipeline with strategic acquisitions that both complement our current portfolio and strengthen our long-term growth potential,” said Roger Perlmutter, president, Merck Research Laboratories.

“Pioneering work by VelosBio scientists has yielded VLS-101, which in early studies has provided notable evidence of activity in heavily pretreated patients with refractory haematological malignancies, including mantel cell lymphoma and diffuse large B-cell lymphoma,” he added.

Article by
Lucy Parsons

6th November 2020

From: Sales



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