Merck & Co. to buy Tilos Therapeutics, gaining experimental drugs modulating TGF-beta

Merck & Co. announced Monday that it entered a definitive agreement to acquire Tilos Therapeutics for a total of up to $773 million, including an undisclosed upfront payment and contingent milestones. Tilos, which was founded in 2016, is developing therapeutics targeting the latent TGF-beta complex for the treatment of cancer, fibrosis and autoimmune diseases.  

"Tilos has developed a compelling portfolio of candidates that employ a novel approach to modulating the potent signalling molecule TGF-beta by binding to latency-associated peptide, with potential applications across a range of disease indications," remarked Dean Li, senior vice president of discovery and translational medicine at Merck Research Laboratories.

According to the drugmakers, TGF-beta is secreted in complex with the protein latency-associated peptide (LAP), which maintains the cytokine in an inactive state until it is deployed. The companies added that antibodies targeting LAP that block the release of TGF-beta from the complex can reduce activity of the cytokine, which is thought to play an important role in the development of cancer and fibrotic diseases.  

The deal follows a number of acquisitions by Merck in recent months, including a deal to purchase all outstanding shares of Peloton Therapeutics for as much as $2.1 billion, including a $1-billion upfront payment. For related analysis, see ViewPoints: Merck aims to ride ahead of the pack with Peloton acquisition.

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