Merck KGaA signs cancer deal with Threshold Pharmaceuticals
by Jeffrey Bouley  |  Email the author


DARMSTADT, Germany—Merck Serono, a division of Merck KGaA, announced Feb. 3 that it had signed a global agreement with Threshold Pharmaceuticals Inc., based in South San Francisco, Calif., to co-develop and commercialize TH-302, Threshold's small molecule hypoxia-targeted drug.
TH-302 is currently being investigated in a global Phase III clinical trial in patients with soft-tissue sarcoma, a randomized Phase II trial in patients with advanced pancreatic cancer from which top-line results are expected in February, as well as additional clinical studies in other solid tumors and hematological malignancies.  
Under the terms of the agreement, Merck will receive co-development rights, exclusive global commercialization rights and will provide Threshold an option to co-commercialize the therapeutic in the United States. In exchange, Threshold will receive an upfront payment of about $25 million and could receive up to around $35 million in additional development milestones during 2012. Threshold is also eligible to receive a $20 million milestone payment based on positive results from its randomized Phase II trial in pancreatic cancer.  
In the United States, Threshold will have primary responsibility for development of TH-302 in the soft-tissue sarcoma indication. Threshold and Merck KGaA will jointly develop TH-302 in all other cancer indications being pursued. Merck KGaA will pay 70 percent of worldwide development costs for TH-302.   Subject to FDA approval in the United States, Merck KGaA will initially be responsible for commercialization of TH-302 with Threshold receiving a tiered, double- digit royalty on sales. Under the royalty-bearing portion of the agreement, Threshold retains the option to co-promote TH-302 in the United States. Additionally, Threshold retains the option to co-commercialize TH-302 allowing the company to participate in up to 50 percent of the profits in the United States, based on certain revenue tiers. Outside of the United States, Merck KGaA will be solely responsible for the commercialization of TH-302 with Threshold receiving a tiered, double-digit royalty on sales in these territories.
Reportedly, the deal is worth as much as $550 million to Threshold over the long run if everything falls into place.

"The addition of TH-302 to our pipeline provides an important opportunity in several different tumor types to expand our oncology development program," said Susan Jane Herbert, head of global business development and strategy for Merck Serono. "Given the fact that pancreatic cancer is a very difficult to treat indication, successful Phase II results could represent important upside for our company."  
"We are excited by the new resources that our partnership is going to bring to the development of TH-302, and the expertise in clinical development and commercialization that Merck will contribute to this program," said Barry Selick, president and CEO of Threshold. "This collaboration provides Threshold a strong and committed partner with a shared vision for TH-302."  
TH-302 is a hypoxia-targeted drug that is thought to be activated under tumor hypoxic conditions, reportedly a hallmark for many cancer indications. Areas of low oxygen levelswithin tissues are common in many solid tumors due to insufficient blood vessel growth. Similarly, the bone marrow of patients with hematological malignancies has also been shown, in some cases, to be extremely hypoxic.  
TH-302 has been investigated in more than 550 patients in Phase I/II clinical trials to date in a broad spectrum of tumor types, both as a monotherapy and in combination with chemotherapy treatments and other targeted cancer drugs.

Code: E02031201

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