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Merck KGaA and Aqilion AB partner in potential €960m deal

The companies will work together to develop small molecule inhibitors of the TAK1 protein


Merck KGaA and Aqilion AB have entered into an exclusive licence and strategic research partnership to advance small molecule inhibitors of the TAK1 protein, thought to play a central role in various inflammatory responses.

Under the terms of the agreement, Aqilion will receive an upfront payment of €10m from Merck KGaA and will be eligible to receive up to €950m in potential milestone payments, as well as tiered royalties on global net sales.

The partnership, which combines the Swedish biotech’s experience in the discovery of selective TAK1 inhibitors with Merck KGaA's drug discovery and development capabilities, will aim to develop therapeutics for a broad range of autoimmune and inflammatory diseases, including those that are neurological.

Aqilion will be responsible for the design and synthesis of the novel small molecule TAK1 inhibitors, while Merck KGaA will lead preclinical pharmacology and biology studies.

Commenting on the recent partnership, Aqilion’s chief executive officer, Sarah Fredriksson, said: “We are delighted and proud to announce this collaboration with Merck as it validates our business strategy of generating highly innovative discovery projects in combination with pro-active business development and early deal-making.

“We are looking forward to working with Merck as this will speed up the process of bringing novel effective treatments to conditions with high unmet medical needs.”

Aqilion’s pipeline currently consists of four programmes in various phases of development, all of which are focused on innovative treatments for chronic inflammatory diseases for which few or no treatments are available.

This includes AQ280, a JAK1 small molecule inhibitor initially being assessed as a potential treatment for eosinophilic oesophagitis, an inflammatory disease of the oesophagus.

A phase 1 dose escalation study to determine the tolerability and safety of the candidate began in August last year, the company said, with results expected towards the middle of 2023.

“Our first phase 1 clinical trial has begun, which means that Aqilion is now a biopharmaceutical company that engages in clinical development,” Fredriksson said at the time. “I am both proud and pleased that we have also succeeded in establishing a pipeline with an innovative profile and a clear focus within chronic inflammatory diseases, including programmes from discovery to early clinical development.”

Article by
Emily Kimber

16th February 2023

From: Sales



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