Merck KGaA, Intrexon sign potential $941-million agreement to develop CAR-T cancer therapies

Merck KGaA said Monday that it entered an exclusive strategic collaboration and license agreement with Intrexon potentially worth up to $941 million to develop and market chimaeric antigen receptor T-cell (CAR-T) cancer therapies. Merck noted that by using Intrexon's cell engineering techniques and RheoSwitch platform, the collaboration aims to develop "leading-edge products that empower the immune system in a regulated manner to overcome the current challenges of CAR-T therapy."

Under the agreed terms, Merck will make an upfront payment of $115 million to Intrexon. The companies noted that for the first two targets of interest selected by Merck, Intrexon will receive research funding and is eligible for additional milestone payments up to $826 million, as well as tiered royalties on product sales.

Meanwhile, Intrexon will be responsible for all platform and product development prior to investigational new drug filings, which Merck will handle along with clinical development and commercialisation. Further, Intrexon will have an option to explore targets independently of Merck, with the German drugmaker granted opt-in rights during development.

According to Belen Garijo, CEO of Merck's Serono unit, the partnership "enhances [our] R&D technology portfolio in immuno-oncology," adding that it also "showcases our commitment to developing therapies that have the potential to significantly evolve the way cancer is treated."

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