Merck and Intrexon sign agreement for the development and commercialisation of CAR-T therapy

Intrexon will receive upfront payment of US$115m with potential for $826m in milestones

Belen Garijo: The alliance showcases our commitment to developing therapies that have the potential to evolve the way cancer is treated

Merck's biopharmaceutical business has signed a licensing agreement with Intrexon to develop and commercialise chimeric antigen receptor T-cell (CAR-T) cancer therapies, which enhances the German company's immuno-oncology R&D portfolio.

The German pharmaceutical company will pay Intrexon, based in Germantown, MD in the US, an upfront payment of US$115m. Intrexon will also receive research funding for the first two targets of interest selected by Merck and is eligible to receive up to $826m in milestone payments, as well as tiered royalties on product sales. In addition, Intrexon is eligible to receive further payments upon achievement of certain technology development milestones.

Belen Garijo, President and CEO of the biopharmaceutical business of Merck, said the alliance 'showcases our commitment to developing therapies that have the potential to significantly evolve the way cancer is treated'.

CAR-T cells are genetically engineered T-cells with synthetic receptors that recognise a specific antigen expressed on tumour cells. When CAR-T cells bind to a target, an immunological attack against the cancer cells is triggered.

The agreement gives Merck exclusive access to Intrexon's technologies to engineer T-cells with optimised gene expression, as recently strengthened by a licensing agreement with the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Centre.

Intrexon will be responsible for all platform and product development until IND filing. Merck will nominate targets of interest for which CAR-T products will be developed. Merck will also lead the IND filing and pre-IND interactions, clinical development and commercialisation. Intrexon also has the opportunity to explore targets independently, granting Merck opt-in rights during clinical development.

In the US and Canada, Merck's biopharmaceutical businesses operate as EMD Serono.

Companies