Merck & Co. is paying Theravance $5 million up front as part of a collaboration agreement focused on developing novel small molecule therapeutics against a candidate hypertension and heart failure target. The deal gives Merck a worldwide, exclusive license to Theravance’s therapeutic candidates, in return for the up-front payment, research funding, and potential milestone payment of up to $148 million for the first indication, plus royalties on worldwide net sales of relevant products. The deal comes less than two weeks after Theravance inked a co-development and licensing option deal with Alfa Wassermann for its clinical-stage 5-HT4 antagonist velusetrag, for the treatment of gastrointestinal motility disorders.

“Over the last several years, Theravance has gained significant insights into the design of novel molecules directed toward certain cardiovascular targets,” comments Mathai Mammen, M.D., svp of research and early clinical development at Theravance. “We are pleased to be working with Merck, an industry leader in the development of innovative cardiovascular medicines, to bring new therapies to patients.”

Theravance’s marketed product, Vibativ®, is an anti-infective indicated for the treatment of complicated skin and skin structure infections (cSSSIs) caused by certain Gram-positive bacteria. The firm’s clinical pipeline includes a series of respiratory drugs partnered with GlaxoSmithKline, and an in-house pipeline headed by the oral peripheral mu opioid receptor antagonist program, which is in mid-stage clinical development. The Theravance pipeline also includes a Phase II-stage drug targeting Gram-positive infections, and pre-proof-of-concept or early clinical development-stage drugs against ADHD, GI motility dysfunction, and Alzheimer’s disease.  

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