Merck Partners with Taiho and Astex in Deal Worth More Than $2.5 Billion

The companies plan to combine their preclinical candidates to develop small-molecule inhibitors against multiple drug targets.

Merck announced on Jan. 6, 2020 that it is entering into a research collaboration and license agreement with Taiho Pharmaceutical and Astex Pharmaceuticals worth more than $2.5 billion.

Under the agreement, Taiho and Astex will receive an upfront payment of $50 million and will be eligible to receive $2.5 billion if all preclinical, clinical, regulatory, and sales milestones are met for the products involved in the agreement, according to a Merck press release. In exchange, Merck will obtain an exclusive global license to the company’s small-molecule inhibitor candidates and will fund research, development, and global commercialization of the products.

The companies plan to combine their preclinical candidates to develop small-molecule inhibitors against multiple drug targets, including the KRAS oncogene, a mutated oncogene present in 90% of pancreatic cancers and 20% of non-small cell lung cancers, according to Merck.

“Taiho has used its unique and proprietary drug discovery platform to generate a number of small-molecule inhibitors,” said Teruhiro Utsugi, PhD, managing director at Taiho, in a company press release. “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.”

“At Merck we continue to pursue new regimens designed to extend the benefits of highly selective therapies to more patients with cancer,” added Dr. Roger M. Perlmutter, president, Merck Research Laboratories, in the press release. “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.”

Source: Merck