Merck & Co., Ablynx enter cancer immunotherapy deal worth up to 1.7 billion euros

Merck & Co. entered a collaboration and licensing agreement with Ablynx potentially worth up to 1.7 billion euros ($2.3 billion) focused on cancer immunotherapies, Ablynx announced Monday. Roger M. Perlmutter, president of Merck Research Laboratories, noted that the deal "positions Merck to expand our early oncology pipeline by developing innovative candidates based on Ablynx's Nanobody technology."

Under the agreement, the companies will discover and develop several predefined Nanobody candidates directed toward immune checkpoint modulators, with Ablynx receiving an upfront payment of 20 million euros ($27 million) and up to 10.7 million euros ($14.5 million) in research funding during the initial three-year term of the collaboration. In addition, Merck will pay Ablynx development, regulatory and commercial milestone payments on sales thresholds for a number of products plus tiered royalties.

Ablynx noted that Merck will be responsible for the development, manufacturing and commercialisation of any products resulting from the agreement. Ablynx CEO Edwin Moses indicated that the company had a number of possible partners, but Merck moved quickly to get a deal signed. Moses added that it took two weeks for the drugmakers to agree on a final contract, a process that usually takes around six months.

The companies entered a similar deal in 2012 to develop and market nanobodies directed towards a voltage gated ion channel, which are involved in a wide range of conditions including neurological disorders, hypertension, diabetes, cancer and arrhythmia.

For further analysis, see ViewPoints: Nanobody know-how – Perlmutter returns to Ablynx as Merck & Co. steps up its collaborative efforts in immuno-oncology.

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