Merck Expands Its Immunotherapy Program by Acquiring IOmet Pharma

Merck announced it has acquired IOmet Pharma, an Edinburgh-based drug development company with an emphasis on cancer metabolism and immunotherapy.

Under the agreement’s terms, Merck will acquire IOmet and the company’s preclinical portfolio of IDO (indoleamine-2,3-dioxygenase 1), TDO (tryptophan-2,3-dioxygenase), and dual-acting IDO/TDO inhibitors. IOmet will become a wholly-owned Merck subsidiary. The financial terms of the acquisition were not released.

“By harnessing the power of the immune system, we are already witnessing great advancements in the treatment of cancer,” Eric Rubin, MD, vice president and therapeutic area head, oncology early stage development, Merck Research Laboratories, said in a press release. “The acquisition of IOmet is a further example of Merck’s commitment to fully realizing the potential of this rapidly evolving field through our existing innovative portfolio as well as the acquisition of promising immunotherapeutic candidates.”

IDO1 and TDO are enzymes that metabolize the amino acid tryptophan. These enzymes have been found to be key targets in cancer immunotherapy, as they are overexpressed in many types of tumors, including melanoma, glioma, and lung, ovarian, and colorectal cancers. Preclinical data and emerging clinical data suggest that IDO1 and/or TDO inhibition can synergize with and help overcome resistance to current cancer therapies, particularly, other immunotherapy-based treatments.

“Merck’s leadership in immuno-oncology and expertise in development combined with the potential of our IDO1 and TDO programs creates significant opportunity for us to advance the treatment of cancer,” said Alan Wise, PhD, chief executive officer of IOmet. “As a company, we have benefited from proximity to world class life sciences research … We now look forward to joining Merck and feel that this acquisition underscores the shared commitment we have to accelerating our programs to bring solutions to people who need them most.”

IOmet presented data on the company’s preclinical IDO1, TDO and IDO1/TDO programs at the Society for Immunotherapy of Cancer Annual Meeting in November 2015.

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