AstraZeneca and Merck have announced a worldwide licensing agreement for Merck’s oral small molecule inhibitor of WEE1 kinase, MK-1775, currently being evaluated in phase IIa clinical studies in combination with standard of care therapies for the treatment of patients with certain types of ovarian cancer.
WEE1 helps to regulate the cell-division cycle. The WEE1 inhibitor MK-1775 is designed to cause certain tumor cells to divide without undergoing the normal DNA repair processes, ultimately leading to cell death. Preclinical evidence suggests the combination of MK-1775 and DNA damage-inducing chemotherapy agents can enhance anti-tumor properties, in comparison to chemotherapy alone.
AstraZeneca will pay Merck a $50 million upfront fee. Merck will be eligible to receive future payments tied to development and regulatory milestones plus sales-related payments and tiered royalties. AstraZeneca will be responsible for all future clinical development, manufacturing and marketing.
The agreement is contingent on expiration or termination of the waiting period under the Hart Scott-Rodino Antitrust Improvement Act.