Merck KGaA, F-Star Add to Bispecific Antibody Pact

Merck KGaA has formed a new strategic collaboration F-star, a Cambridge, UK-based biopharmaceutical company,, for the development and commercialization of five bispecific immuno-oncology antibodies. Beyond these five bispecific antibodies, Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany will have further rights to replace, as well as to add to these antibodies using F-star’s bispecific antibody platform.

Under these agreements and upon delivery of pre-defined data packages, Merck KGaA has the option to acquire five of F-star’s bispecific programs. This option includes exclusive development and commercialization rights to F-star’s preclinical lead asset FS118, which is designed to block LAG-3 (Lymphocyte-Activation Gene 3) and PD-L1 (Programmed Death-Ligand 1), two pathways commonly used by cancer cells to evade the immune system. In addition, F-star will grant Merck KGaA exclusive development and commercial rights to four bispecific antibodies of Merck KGaA’s choosing from F-star’s bispecific antibody platform. In return, Merck KGaA will pay up to EUR 115 million ($129 million) in upfront, R&D funding and milestone payments in the first two years, and may make further payments upon exercising its option and based on milestones.

Merck KGaA already has a bifunctional antibody in its pipeline M7824, which is currently in Phase I development. Discovered in-house, M7824 is an investigational immunotherapy designed to simultaneously block two immunoinhibitory pathways (PD-L1 and TGF-β) that are commonly used by cancer cells to evade the immune system.

Source: Merck KGaA

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