Merck Serono strikes mega CAR-T therapy deal with Intrexon
31.03.2015 - Merck Serono has forged a US$941m (€876m) deal with US Intrexon for the development and commercialisation of CAR-T therapies. The new CAR-T projects are set to strengthen their R&D technology portfolio in immuno-oncology.
Under the terms of the agreement, Merck Serono, which is the R&D arm of Merck KGaA will hand over a US$115m (€107m) upfront payment to Intrexon together with a commitment of up to US$826m (€770m) in milestones for the first two targets. Merck will later select these targets. Intrexon is also eligible to receive tiered royalties on product sales. In exchange, Merck will have exclusive access to the Virginia-based firm’s Chimeric Antigen Receptor T-cell (CAR-T) technology platform. Shares of Intrexon, which until now had a market cap of almost US$5bn, have shot up by 9% since the announcement of the deal.
The collaboration accelerates Merck Serono’s strategy to develop innovative therapies that modulate the immune system’s natural ability to fight tumours. CAR-T cells are genetically engineered T-cells with synthetic receptors that recognise a specific antigen expressed on tumour cells. When CAR-T binds to a target, an immunological attack against the cancer cells is triggered.
CAR-T is a recent breakthrough technology in immuno-oncology. Since companies like Novartis and Juno Therapeutics championed the therapy showing how it could offer major new advances in cancer patients, the technology has taken the biopharma world by storm.
The Merck-Intrexon collaboration will utilise Intrexon’s cell engineering techniques and its RheoSwitch gene regulation platform by aiming to develop products that empower the immune system in a regulated manner to overcome the current challenges of CAR-T therapy. Synthetic biology firm Intrexon collaborates with companies in the health, food, energy, environment and consumer sectors.