Merck has acquired, through a subsidiary, OncoEthix, a Swiss-based, privately held biotechnology company specializing in oncology drug development. Merck has gained an investigational, novel oral BET (bromodomain) inhibitor, OTX015, currently in phase Ib studies for the treatment of hematological malignancies and advanced solid tumors.
“Oncology is a priority area of focus for Merck and the acquisition of OncoEthix supports our strategy to prioritize the development of innovative molecules with the potential to improve the treatment of advanced cancers,” said Dr. Roy Baynes, senior vice president, global clinical development, Merck Research Laboratories. “The potential first-in-class oral BET inhibitor, OTX015, has demonstrated early promising activity in hematological cancers and strategically complements our broad immuno-oncology development program.”
BET proteins are considered potential therapeutic targets in cancer, as they play a pivotal role in regulating the transcription of key regulators of cancer cell growth and survival, including c-Myc. Interim data from ongoing phase I clinical studies of OTX015 have demonstrated meaningful clinical activity in patients with hematological malignancies. An international, open-label phase I study evaluating OTX015 in five different solid tumors was initiated in November.
Financial terms of the acquisition include an upfront payment of up to $110 million to OncoEthix. Additional milestone payments of up to $265 million are contingent upon certain clinical and regulatory events being achieved.