Merck Serono expands EGFR-targeted portfolio
DARMSTADT, Germany—Merck Serono, the biopharmaceutical division of German company Merck KGaA, recently announced that it had inked an exclusive worldwide license agreement with Copenhagen, Denmark-based Symphogen A/S for Sym004, an investigational antibody mixture targeting the epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR).
Under the terms of the deal, Merck Serono will gain exclusive worldwide rights to develop and commercialize Sym004, while Symphogen will receive from Merck an upfront payment of some $28.5 million as well as payments for clinical development, regulatory and sales performance milestones. Symphogen will also be eligible for potential royalties on net worldwide sales.
This current clinical program for Sym004 for patients with advanced metastatic colorectal cancer and in squamous cell carcinoma of the head and neck "builds upon the long history of scientific and clinical success with Erbitux and complements Merck's existing EGFR franchise," Merck Serono notes in a news release about the deal.
Specifically, Sym004 is under evaluation in a Phase I/II trial for the treatment of patients with advanced KRAS wild-type metastatic colorectal cancer who have previously progressed on treatment with standard chemotherapy and a marketed anti-EGFR monoclonal antibody. In addition, there is an ongoing single-arm, open-label Phase II trial in patients with squamous cell carcinoma of the head and neck who have failed anti-EGFR-based therapy.
"Sym004 further strengthens our early development pipeline by adding a product that is thought to act via a proposed synergistic mechanism of action not previously studied, but more specifically, it has the potential to become a key asset complementing our already highly successful Erbitux franchise," said Dr. Susan Jane Herbert, head of global business development and strategy for Merck Serono. "This collaboration once again reflects our strong commitment to fighting cancer and to providing new treatment options to patients. "
As the companies describe the investigational compound, it is made up of a pair of antibodies that not only block ligand binding, receptor activation and downstream signaling "but are also thought to elicit removal of the EGFR receptors from the cancer cell surface by inducing EGFR internalization and degradation," according to Merck Serono.
"We believe that Merck is uniquely well positioned to develop Sym004 based on its deep knowledge of the EGFR area," said Kirsten Drejer, CEO of Symphogen. "This transaction further validates the antibody mixture approach as a highly attractive option."