Merck Establishes Strategic Oncology Collaboration with Taiho and Astex

  • Posted on: 7 January 2020
  • By: PharmaTutor News

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MSD outside the United States and Canada, announced an exclusive worldwide research collaboration and license agreement with Taiho Pharmaceutical Co, Ltd., (“Taiho”) and Astex Pharmaceuticals (UK), a wholly owned subsidiary of Otsuka Pharmaceutical Co., Ltd. (“Astex”), focused on the development of small molecule inhibitors against several drug targets, including the KRAS oncogene, which are currently being investigated for the treatment of cancer.

“At Merck we continue to pursue new regimens designed to extend the benefits of highly selective therapies to more patients with cancer,” said Dr. Roger M. Perlmutter, president, Merck Research Laboratories. “This agreement with Taiho and Astex combines our respective small molecule assets and industry-leading expertise in cancer cell signaling to enable development of the most promising drug candidates.”

Under the terms of the agreement, Merck, Taiho and Astex will combine preclinical candidates and their data with knowledge and expertise from their respective research programs. In exchange for providing Merck an exclusive global license to their small molecule inhibitor candidates, Taiho and Astex will receive an aggregate upfront payment of $50 million and will be eligible to receive approximately $2.5 billion contingent upon the achievement of preclinical, clinical, regulatory and sales milestones for multiple products arising from the agreement, as well as tiered royalties on sales. Merck will fund research and development and will be responsible for commercialization of products globally. Taiho has retained co-commercialization rights in Japan and an option to promote in specific areas of South East Asia.

“Taiho has used its unique and proprietary drug discovery platform to generate a number of small molecule inhibitors,” said Teruhiro Utsugi, Ph.D., managing director at Taiho. “This alliance builds on our KRAS research up to now and together with Merck, allows us to combine our expertise to significantly accelerate the global research, development, and commercialization of a number of our mutant KRAS programs by accessing external talent and resources.”

“Together with our Taiho colleagues we are delighted to be working with Merck, one of the global leaders in oncology drug development, on this strategic alliance. This collaboration is another testament to Astex’s position as the leader in fragment-based drug discovery,” said Harren Jhoti, Ph.D., president and CEO of Astex.

KRAS is among the most frequently mutated oncogenes in cancer. It is estimated to occur in more than 90% of pancreatic cancers and approximately 20% of non-small cell lung cancers (NSCLC) and is associated with poorer outcomes.

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