Quartet Medicine, Merck partner
Quartet Medicine, a biotechnology company focused on the development of novel treatments for chronic pain and inflammation, has entered into a strategic agreement with Merck, known as MSD outside the U.S. and Canada, in connection with Quartet’s pipeline of novel small molecule drugs modulating the tetrahydrobiopterin (BH4) pathway.
“Merck is an ideal partner to help advance development of Quartet’s potential first-in-class therapy for chronic pain,” said Kevin Pojasek, Ph.D., Quartet’s president and chief executive officer. “This agreement provides a mutually beneficial collaboration framework, while providing Quartet significant non-dilutive research and development funding to advance our program through human proof-of-concept.”
Quartet will receive up to $20 million split equally across an upfront payment and an undisclosed future development milestone. This R&D funding will be used to advance Quartet’s lead program through phase IIa clinical proof-of-concept for the treatment of pain. In return, Merck obtains an exclusive option to purchase Quartet. If Merck exercises its option, Quartet will receive a pre-determined, undisclosed option exercise payment along with potential development, regulatory and sales milestones of up to $575 million in total.
The BH4 synthesis pathway has been implicated in a range of chronic human pain and inflammatory conditions. Up-regulation of BH4 synthesis in response to injury or inflammation increases cellular levels of BH4, an important cofactor for several classes of enzymes, that results in neuronal hypersensitivity and chronic immune cell activation. Multiple human genetic studies have linked a haplotype in the gene encoding GTP cyclohydrolase I, a BH4 synthetic enzyme, to a reduced risk of developing chronic pain after nerve injury or chronic disease. Pharmacological modulation of either GTP cyclohydrolase I or sepiapterin reductase, another enzyme in the BH4 synthesis pathway, safely restores BH4 to normal levels leading to an improvement of pain symptoms in preclinical models.
Quartet was founded by scientists at Boston Children’s Hospital and École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) in Switzerland in conjunction with Atlas Venture. Quartet’s Series A investors include Atlas Venture, Novartis Venture Funds, Partners Innovation Fund, Pfizer Venture Investments, Remeditex Ventures and two Shanghai-based strategic investors. The company is based in Cambridge, Mass. and has research efforts underway with collaborators in Europe and Asia.