Ziopharm Oncology, a Boston, Mass.-based biotech company, and Intrexon, a synthetic biology provider, have announced their oncology programs will be strengthened through Intrexon's new global collaboration focused exclusively on novel chimeric antigen receptor T-cell (CAR-T) products with Merck Serono, the biopharmaceutical division of Merck. Intrexon will share the economic provisions of this collaboration, including upfront payment, milestones and royalties, equally with Ziopharm.
Merck Serono will elect CAR-T targets, two initially, for which it will provide certain research funding. Ziopharm will be responsible for any additional R&D expenditures. Once these candidates reach IND stage, the programs will be transferred to Merck Serono for clinical development and commercialization. Ziopharm and Intrexon also will independently conduct R&D on other CAR-T candidates, with Merck having the opportunity during clinical development to opt-in. Ziopharm's other oncology programs will continue through its exclusive channel collaboration (ECC) with Intrexon.
"Controlled CAR-T treatments hold the promise of delivering the powerful benefit of a targeted immune response to cancer with the ability to modulate immune toxicity, leading to safer, more efficacious treatments," said Jonathan Lewis, M.D., Ph.D., CEO of Ziopharm. "The collaboration with Merck Serono brings world-class resources to our development efforts that greatly enhance our ability to translate CAR-T therapies from bench to bedside."
"Harnessing the power of the immune system in a regulated manner is key to address the challenges of current CAR-T approaches and combat malignancies with adoptive cell therapies," said Gregory Frost Ph.D., senior vice president and head of Intrexon's health sector. "We believe our alliances with Merck Serono and Ziopharm will accelerate progress in our synthetic immuno-oncology pipeline and drive next-generation medicines to market."