Last week, the world’s oldest operating chemical and pharmaceutical company, Merck KGaA or Merck Darmstadt, signed into a new partnership with American pharmaceutical giant, Pfizer, Inc. The two companies will be co-developing and co-commercializing one of Merck’s pipeline products, MSB0010718C, an anti-PD-L1 antibody currently under investigation as a treatment for multiple tumor types. This experimental drug will be advanced as a single agent and in combination with both companies’ line of approved and pipeline products. Both companies will be merging their resources and vast expertise to move Pfizer’s anti-PD-1 into Phase 1 clinical trials, and simultaneously promote XALKORI for non-small cell lung cancer, in US territories.
Belén Garijo, President and Chief Executive Officer of the biopharmaceutical division of Merck KGaA, is quite pleased with the new collaboration with Pfizer as it will serve as leverage for both companies in immuno-oncology. As of now, there are as many as 20 top-priority clinical research programs preparing for launch in 2015, including groundbreaking registration studies. Garijo is also confident their partnership with Pfizer will prove essential in their plans to enter the US cancer treatment market.
“We live up to our promise to strengthen all three pillars of our business: Healthcare, Performance Materials and Life Science. After this year’s acquisition of AZ Electronic Materials and the proposal to acquire Sigma-Aldrich, we have now turned the focus on healthcare,” Karl-Ludwig Kley, the Chairman of the Executive Board of Merck KGaA, said in a company’s press release.“The agreement with Pfizer is a very important milestone in taking our pharma pipeline forward.”
According to the contract, Merck KGaA will be payed an upfront sum of $850 million (roughly €680 million), and remain eligible for both regulatory and commercial milestone payments amounting to as much as $2.0 billion. Funding of co-development ventures and commercialization will be shouldered evenly by both companies, and all revenue generated from anti-PD-L1 or anti-PD-1 products will be shared.
Currently, Merck KGaA’s anti-PD-L1 product is undergoing 2 clinical evaluations. A Phase 1 trial has treated 550 patients with multiple cancer types with MSB0010718C, and as of September 18, interim data showed complete and partial responses in patients with NSCLC and ovarian cancer. Further findings are expected to be revealed in next year’s medical conferences. A Phase 2 study is exploring the potential of the product in a rare form of skin cancer called, m-Merkel cell carcinoma.
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