Merck cooperates with Symphogen
07.09.2012 - German Merck KGaA enters a license deal worth up to €495m with Danish Symphogen to receive exclusive rights to a Phase II cancer drug
Symphogen's Sym004 is a recombinant IgG1 antibody product consisting of two antibodies targeting the epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR). It is currently being evaluated in a Phase I/II trial for the treatment of patients with advanced KRAS wild-type metastatic colorectal cancer (mCRC) as a second-line treatment. In addition, a single-arm, open-label Phase II trial is on-going in patients with squamous cell carcinoma of the head and neck (SCCHN) who have failed anti-EGFR-based therapy.
Under the terms of the agreement, Merck will pay Symphogen €20m upfront. The Danish antibody specialist is also eligible to receive up to €225m for clinical development and regulatory milestones, €250m in potential combined sales performance milestones as well as royalties on net worldwide sales. In exchange, Merck will gain exclusive worldwide rights to develop and commercialise Sym004.
Sym004 is designed to block ligand binding, receptor activation and downstream signalling. The antibodies are also thought to elicit removal of the EGFR receptors from the cancer cell surface by inducing EGFR internalisation and degradation. Merck says it sees the program as a natural extension of its Erbitux franchise.
The German pharma giant has come under pressure lately, as important R&D projects, like the oral MS treatment Cladribine, failed. In the wake of the setbacks, it decided to start a major restructuring programme. Merck decided to close down its Merck Serono headquarter in Geneva and lately announced to lay off 1,100 employees in Germany.