Merck KGaA, the Darmstadt-based subsidiary of Merck, is intensively negotiating with possible partners for their investigational cancer immunotherapy drug, anti-PD-L1 agent, and expect to close the partnership at the end of 2014. The anti-PD-L1 agent renders the tumor cells more susceptible to the immune system of the patient. This product has already passed through an early-stage Phase I tests where was given to more than 500 patients, showing promising results in lung, ovarian and Merkel cell skin cancer.
Analysts believe that the products coming from the very competitive research area of immuno-oncology, where companies like U.S.-based Merck & Co, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Roche and AstraZeneca are the main contributors, and entering the drug market will eventually lead to tens of billions of dollars in annual sales. “We have initiated a competitive process to select the best partner for the global co-development and co-commercialization of our anti-PD-L1 compound,” said Stefan Oschmann, the head of Merck KGaA pharmacy business. “We are currently in advanced discussions with major oncology players and aim to reach an agreement by year-end,” added Stefan Oschmann.
The company unit that develops biosimilars, compounds that are similar versions of approved and authorized biological medicines, received a 100 million euro investment this year. Depending on the data obtained from the current clinical studies, Merck KGaA is planning to invest an extra 130 to 150 million euros ($168 to $192 million) in 2015.
In addition, Merck KGaA announced a change of chairmen within the company: Stefan Oschmann, 57 years old, head of the pharmacy business will be nominated in January 1, 2015, deputy chief executive and will share strategic management functions and representation of the company along with CEO Karl-Ludwig Kley, and is seen as his potential successor. Belen Garijo, 54 years old, already CEO of Merck’s biopharmaceutical division, Merck Serono, will be responsible for the entire pharma business as well as consumer health, allergy treatments and biosimilars.