Immune-oncology drug developer BeiGene said today it received a $9 million payment from Merck Serono for achieving a clinical milestone toward development for BGB-290, an investigational poly (ADP-ribose) polymerase (PARP) inhibitor that is now the subject of a Phase I study.

The $9 million is part of up to €170 million ($219.9 million) in further payments BeiGene could receive under the companies’ collaboration for BGB-290, entered into in November 2013 as the expansion of a partnership that began in May of that year. In addition to an undisclosed upfront payment, Merck Serono agreed to pay BeiGene payments tied to achievement of clinical development and potential commercial milestones in both China and the rest of the world, as well as royalties on net sales.

BeiGene said it received the milestone payment after enrolling its fifth patient in the study, which is designed to assess the safety and tolerability of BGB-290 as a single agent. The Phase I multicenter, open-label, dose escalation clinical trial has among its key objectives determining maximum tolerated dose, pharmacokinetics, pharmacodynamics and preliminary antitumor activity of BGB-290. Disease-specific expansion cohorts will be enrolled at the maximally tolerated or biologically-relevant dose.

“We are hopeful that BGB-290 will demonstrate the potential to offer significant advantages over other drugs in this class, and could become an important part of the treatment options for patients with common cancers, including small cell lung cancer, gastric cancer, primary brain tumors, and some ovarian and breast cancers,” Michael Millward, M.B.B.S., lead investigator for the trial and Cancer Council professor of clinical cancer research at the University of Western Australia, said in July when the trial enrolled its first patient.

BGB-290 is part of BeiGene’s two-asset strategic collaboration established last year with Merck Serono, the biopharmaceutical division of Merck KGaA. The other compound, BGB-283, an investigational second-generation B-RAF inhibitor, entered a Phase I study in November 2013. BeiGene announced a $5 million clinical milestone payment from Merck Serono for BGB-283 in May.

“We are pleased with the rapid development progress being made in all of these programs, and look forward to working with Merck Serono as BGB-290 continues to advance through clinical trials,” BeiGene CEO John V. Oyler said in a statement.

BeiGene and Merck Serono entered their collaboration in May 2013 to co-develop and co-commercialize BGB-283, with Merck Serono agreeing to pay an undisclosed upfront payment plus undisclosed payments tied to clinical development milestones in both China and rest of the world, commercial milestones, and up to double-digit royalties on net sales. 

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