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GSK acquires Merck’s cancer immunotherapy for up to €3.7 billion

GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) and Merck have entered into a global strategic alliance to jointly develop and commercialise M7824, an investigational bifunctional fusion protein immunotherapy that is currently in clinical development, including potential registration studies, for multiple difficult-to-treat cancers.

This includes a Phase II trial to investigate M7824 compared with pembrolizumab as a first-line treatment in patients with PD-L1 expressing advanced non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC).

“Despite recent medical advances, many patients with difficult-to-treat cancers don’t currently benefit from immuno-oncology therapies leaving them with limited treatment options. M7824 brings together two different biological functions in a single molecule and we have observed encouraging clinical results in treating certain cancer patients, particularly those people with non-small cell lung cancer. I’m excited by the potential impact this first-in-class immunotherapy could have on the lives of cancer patients,” said Hal Barron, Chief Scientific Officer and President R&D, GSK.

Total potential deal value is up to €3.7 billion

Merck will receive an upfront payment of €300 million (£260 million) and is eligible for potential development milestone payments of up to €500 million (£440 million) triggered by data from the M7824 lung cancer programme. Merck will also be eligible for further payments upon successfully achieving future approval and commercial milestones of up to €2.9 billion (£2.5 billion). The total potential deal value is up to €3.7 billion (£3.2 billion). Both companies will jointly conduct development and commercialisation with all profits and costs from the collaboration being shared equally on a global basis.

For GSK, this alliance is a further step in the company’s priority to strengthen its pharmaceuticals pipeline. This follows the company’s recent acquisition of TESARO, an oncology-focused company based in Waltham, Massachusetts. GSK’s approach to oncology is focused on innovation in the areas of immuno-oncology, cell therapy, cancer epigenetics and, most recently, genetic medicine.