Merck and AstraZeneca have entered a worldwide licensing agreement for Merck’s oral small molecule inhibitor of WEE1 kinase MK-1775, currently in Phase IIa studies in combination with standard-of-care for the treatment of certain types of ovarian cancer. AstraZeneca will pay $50 million upfront and Merck will be eligible to receive future development and regulatory milestones, as well as royalties on sales. AZ will be responsible for all future clinical development, manufacturing and marketing.
WEE1 regulates the cell-division cycle and MK-1775 is designed to cause certain tumor cells to divide without undergoing normal DNA repair processes, ultimately leading to cell death. Preclinical data suggests that the combination of MK-1775 and DNA damage-inducing chemotherapy agents can enhance anti-tumor properties compared to chemotherapy alone.
“MK-1775 is a strong addition to AstraZeneca’s growing oncology pipeline, which already includes a number of inhibitors of the DNA damage response,” said Susan Galbraith, head of AZ’s Oncology Innovative Medicines Unit. “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.”
“Merck is committed to advancing potentially meaningful therapeutic options promptly for patients with cancer,” said Iain D. Dukes, senior vice president and head of licensing and external scientific affairs, Merck. “We are pleased to enter this agreement with AstraZeneca to realize the potential of MK-1775 while we focus on advancing our later stage oncology programs, MK-3475 and vintafolide.”
Merck, AstraZeneca in WEE1 License Agreement
Published September 11, 2013
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