Merck, Ablynx Expand Immuno-Oncology Pact
The biopharmaceutical company, Ablynx, has expanded its immuno-oncology collaboration with a subsidiary of Merck & Co., Inc. to address an increased number of immune checkpoint modulator targets.
The original collaboration, announced in February 2014, focused on the discovery and development of five pre-defined Nanobody candidates (including multi-specific Nanobody combinations) directed towards immune checkpoint modulator targets for evaluation as immunotherapies for cancer. Nanobodies are Ablynx’s proprietary therapeutic proteins based on single-domain antibody fragments, which seek to combine the the advantages of conventional antibody drugs with some of the features of small-molecule drugs.
As part of this expansion of the 2014 agreement, Ablynx will be responsible for the discovery and development of up to 12 additional Nanobody programs against individual protein targets and target combinations (mono-specific and multi-specific Nanobodies) through to the in vivo pre-clinical proof-of-concept stage, after which Merck will have the option to advance specified lead candidates.
Under the terms of this four-year expansion, Ablynx will receive a EUR 13 million ($14 million) upfront payment consisting exclusivity fees and full-time equivanlent payments as well as further research funding over the term of the collaboration. In addition, Ablynx will be eligible to receive additional exclusivity fees, depending on the number of programs for which Merck decides to exercise its licensing option, plus development, regulatory and commercial milestone payments of up to EUR 340 million ($371 million) per program, as well as tiered royalties on annual net sales upon commercialization of any Nanobody products. Merck will be responsible for clinical development, manufacturing, and commercialization of any products resulting from the collaboration.
Merck and Ablynx also have a separate collaboration in the field of ion channel drug development, announced in October 2012, which included an EURI 6.5 million ($7.1 million) upfront payment, EUR 2 million ($2.2 million) research funding and up to EUR 448 million ($489 million) in research, regulatory and commercial milestone payments associated with the progress of multiple candidates as well as tiered royalties on any products derived from the collaboration.