AstraZeneca Partners with Merck & Co
AstraZeneca have announced that they have licensed a drug which is currently in mid-stage clinical studies for ovarian cancer from Merck & Co.
The agreement revolves around MK-1775, an oral small molecule inhibitor of WEE1 kinase, a cell cycle checkpoint protein regulator.
Preclinical results have indicated that disruption of WEE1 may improve the cell killing effects of some anticancer agents.
The drug is currently in Phase IIa studies in combination with standard of care therapies for the treatment of patients with certain types of ovarian cancer.
Under the terms of the partnership, AstraZeneca will pay Merck a $50 million upfront fee, in addition to future payments tied to development and any regulatory milestones, plus tiered royalties. AstraZeneca will be responsible for all future clinical development, manufacturing and marketing.
Head of AstraZeneca’s oncology innovative medicines unit, Susan Galbraith, commented that MK-1775 is a strong addition to their pipeline, “which already includes a number of inhibitors of the DNA damage response.” In addition, she noted that the compound has demonstrated encouraging clinical efficacy data “and we intend to study it in a range of cancer types where there is a high unmet medical need.”
The head of licensing and external scientific affairs at Merck, Iain Dukes, commented that Merck will now be able to focus on advancing later-stage oncology programmes, notably the immunotherapy MK-3475 (lambrolizumab) and vintafolide for ovarian and non-small cell lung cancer.