Merck & Co. will use Complix’ Alphabody platform to discover and develop new cancer therapies through a collaboration that could generate up to $280 million for the Belgian biopharma.

Complix, which disclosed the collaboration today, said the new therapies or Cell-Penetrating Alphabodies (CPABs) will be developed with Merck subsidiary Merck Sharp & Dohme (MSD) for up to two intracellular cancer targets.

CPABs are a class of small proteins designed to bind to a variety of antigens. According to Complix, CPABs have the potential to address a wide range of disease targets, including intracellular targets that have proven difficult to reach for current therapies.

Complix says CPABs have a unique ability to enter tumor cells effectively, then selectively modulate intracellular protein-to-protein interactions instrumental in the initiation and progression of a broad range of cancers. CPABs are also able to enter many different types of tumor cells and remain stable within the tumor tissue for up to 24 hours post administration, the company adds.

“This collaboration with MSD is a major corporate milestone for Complix and highlights the potential of our unique CPAB platform, which we believe will deliver game changing biotherapeutics for the treatment of cancer,” Complix CEO Mark Vaeck, Ph.D., said in a statement.

Rob Kastelein, Ph.D., scientific avp, MSD Research Laboratories, added that the collaboration was “an excellent example of our focus on finding and bringing forward new approaches that will further enhance and complement our immuno-oncology clinical development program.”

MSD agreed to fund research activities in return for an option to exclusive, worldwide rights for any compounds produced through the collaboration.

MSD also agreed to pay Complix an upfront payment and potential payments tied to development milestones, all totaling up to $280 million, plus tiered royalties.

In addition to cancer, Complix has focused on developing Alphabodies™ for severe autoimmune diseases. The company’s most advanced drug candidate CMX-02 is a bispecific Alphabody-antibody fusion protein designed to simultaneously target two key cytokines in the inflammation cascade, TNFα and IL-23.

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