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Merck stumps up $375m for cancer firm OncoEthix

Follows $8.4bn deal to buy Cubist

Merck_Co_logoMerck & Co has bolstered its cancer pipeline with the acquisition of Swiss biopharma company OncoEthix in a deal valued at up to $375m.

The main draw for Merck is OncoEthix' portfolio of oral BET (bromodomain) inhibitors - headed by OTX015 which is currently in phase Ib studies for the treatment of haematological cancers and solid tumours.

The acquisition is Merck's second this month after it agreed an $8.4bn takeover deal with anti-infectives specialist Cubist Pharmaceuticals.

Preliminary trial results reported at the American Association of Cancer Research (AACR) earlier this year showed that once-daily, oral therapy with OTX015 was effective in patients with acute leukaemia, including those who had failed several other lines of treatment, with little or no toxicity.

The bromodomain is emerging as an intriguing new target in cancer therapy, and comprises a family of proteins that can determine whether genes are switched on or off. OTX015 targets three proteins - called BRD2, 3 and 4 - that are thought to be important in the development of leukaemia, lymphoma and myeloma.

Merck said that the drug could be the first BET inhibitor to come through development and "strategically complements our broad immuno-oncology development programme" which this year saw the approval of PD-1 inhibitor Keytruda (pembrolizumab) for melanoma in the US.

The company is paying $110m upfront for OncoEthix and up to $265m in clinical and regulatory milestone payments.

Other companies working in the BET inhibitor area include GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) with I-BET762, also in phase I trials, as well as Constellation Pharmaceuticals, Medivation/OncoFusion Therapeutics and Tensha Therapeutics.

…teams up with Enumeral

In another oncology-boosting deal, Merck has also just signed a collaboration with Massachusetts-based Enumeral Biomedical, a spin-out from MIT and Harvard, to make use of its immune profiling platform.

Merck and Enumeral will examine the tumour microenvironment in colorectal cancer samples obtained directly from patients in order to "identify functional cellular responses to immuno-oncology therapies being developed by Merck", said Enumeral in a statement.

Article by
Phil Taylor

19th December 2014

From: Sales

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