Merck & Co enters Alphabodies agreement with Complix to develop cancer treatments

Complix will receive upfront fees, research funding, and milestone payments of up to US$280m

Merck & Co is to work with Belgian biopharmaceutical firm Complix to developing Cell-Penetrating Alphabodies (CPABs) for the treatment of cancer.

Complix will receive an upfront payment and potential development milestones of up to US$280m, in addition to tiered royalties.

Merck & Co (known as MSD outside North America) will fund related research activities and has an option to the exclusive, worldwide rights for any of the resulting compounds.

Alphabodies are a class of small proteins engineered to bind to a variety of antigens. They have the potential to address a wide range of disease targets, including intracellular targets that are difficult for current therapies to reach.

Complix data has shown that CPABs enter tumour cells and selectively modulate intracellular protein-to-protein interactions, which play a key role in the initiation and progression of a broad range of cancers. CPABs are also able to enter many different types of tumour cells and remain stable within the tumour tissue for up to 24 hours post administration.

The firm is also developing Alphabody based bispecifics for the treatment of autoimmune diseases.

Dr Mark Vaeck, CEO of Complix, described the deal as a 'major corporate milestone' for the firm.

'With such a high-quality partner, I am confident that Complix will be able to rapidly progress the development of CPAB drug candidates that we will generate against cancer targets of interest to MSD,' he said.

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