Merck announces VAR2 Pharmaceuticals as winner of its advance biotech grant

The company was selected for its development of a drug-conjugated malaria protein

Merck, a leading science and technology company, has announced that VAR2 Pharmaceuticals has been selected as the European winner of its 2020 Advance Biotech Grant Program. Copenhagen, Denmark-based biotechnology company VAR2 Pharmaceuticals was chosen for its development of a promising novel cancer treatment that has the potential to treat multiple types of human solid tumors.

“Emerging biotech companies play a significant role in the pharma value chain, typically developing therapies for rare and orphan diseases and often need support in bringing these important drugs to market,” said Udit Batra, member of the Merck Executive Board and CEO, Life Science. “VAR2 Pharmaceuticals’ use of a malaria protein to treat cancer is promising, and we are proud to support them.”

VAR2 Pharmaceuticals is in pre-clinical development of a drug conjugate that uses a recombinant malaria protein, rVAR2, to target and combat cancer cells. The rVAR2 protein has been tested on different cancer cell lines and has, in such tests, bound to the vast majority, including melanoma, lymphoma, breast, prostate and ovarian cancer, and Hodgkin's lymphoma. Although today’s focus on Covid-19 vaccines, treatments and diagnostics development is critical, patients around the world need drugs to treat diseases like cancer. With its potential ability to rapidly shrink tumors and target a broad range of cancer cell lines without knowingly disrupting healthy cells, rVAR2 shows promise to be a safe and effective therapy against a broad range of cancers that have virtually no treatment options available.

As part of the grant award, VAR2 Pharmaceuticals will receive in-kind Merck products and consultation support to advance its harvest, downstream and formulations process development challenges in the production of its drug-conjugated malaria protein.

“We are honored to have been selected as the winner of Merck’s Advance Biotech Grant,” said Ali Salanti, founder and CEO of VAR2 Pharmaceuticals. “The products, process development support and expertise belonging to the Life Science business of Merck in developing biopharmaceutical manufacturing processes will be instrumental in moving this project forward to GMP to enable clinical trials, and we look forward to the collaboration.”

Since 2014, Merck’s Advance Biotech Grant Program has awarded technologies and consultation to 28 biotechnology companies. These grants have been used to support biotech companies whose missions are to help patients suffering from cancer, brain tumors, osteoarthritis and cardiovascular disorders.

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