Merck Acquires IOmet to Build Immuno-Oncology Position

Merck & Co. Inc. has acquired IOmet, a privately held UK-based drug discovery company based in Edinburgh, Scotland, is focused on the development of cancer treatments, with a particular emphasis on the fields of cancer immunotherapy and cancer metabolism. Under terms of the agreement, Merck, through a subsidiary, will acquire IOmet, including its comprehensive pre-clinical pipeline of IDO (indoleamine-2,3-dioxygenase 1), TDO (tryptophan-2,3-dioxygenase), and dual-acting IDO/TDO inhibitors. Based on the transaction, IOmet will become a wholly owned subsidiary of Merck.

IDO1 and TDO, the rate-limiting enzymes in the pathway that metabolizes the essential amino acid tryptophan, have emerged as key targets for the pharmaceutical industry in the cancer immunotherapy field. Overexpression of these enzymes has been detected in a variety of cancers, including glioma, melanoma, lung, ovarian, and colorectal cancers, and is associated with poor prognosis and survival. IDO1 and TDO overexpression leads to tryptophan depletion and high tumor levels of the breakdown product, kynurenine. This elevated kynurenine/tryptophan (K/T) ratio suppresses the body's immune response to cancer, thus facilitating tumor progression and metastasis. Preclinical evidence and emerging clinical data suggest that inhibition of IDO1 and/or TDO may synergize with, and help overcome resistance to, existing clinical cancer therapies, in particular other immunotherapy-based treatments.

Source: Merck & Co.

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