Merck Serono, the Germany-based biopharmaceutical division of Merck; the London-based Institute of Cancer Research (ICR); and the Wellcome Trust, a U.K. charitable foundation, have announced a co-development and license agreement building on two independent research programs at both the ICR and Merck Serono to identify inhibitors of tankyrase, an enzyme of the poly (ADP-ribose) polymerase family.
The collaboration will be jointly funded by Merck Serono and the Wellcome Trust. The existing drug discovery program at the ICR is supported by a Wellcome Trust Seeding Drug Discovery Award.
In a joint effort, a team led by Dr. Chris Lord and professor Alan Ashworth at the ICR and a research group at Merck Serono will aim to progress chemical compounds that have emerged from both organizations' tankyrase inhibitor programs toward clinical development. At the end of the collaboration period, Merck Serono will take over full responsibility for the selected clinical development candidate, with the goal of bringing a new cancer therapeutic drug to patients.
Dr. Chris Lord, team leader in breast cancer research at the ICR, London, said, "Tankyrase inhibitors provide a unique opportunity to target one of the most common characteristics of cancer cells—their dependency on the so-called 'Wnt signaling' pathway. Both Merck Serono and the group at the ICR already have made notable progress in developing tankyrase inhibitors. Working with Merck Serono will allow us to jointly accelerate our program with the aim to ultimately make tankyrase inhibitors available to cancer patients."
Some of the most promising advances in cancer research have been small-molecule inhibitors, which block the activity of members of the poly (ADP-ribose) polymerase (PARP) enzyme family, which includes the enzyme tankyrase.
Merck Serono will make milestone payments based on achieving regulatory and sales goals plus royalty payments on net sales of future products discovered or developed under the agreement.