Merck KGaA and Intrexon entered into an exclusive strategic collaboration and license agreement to develop and commercialize chimeric antigen receptor T-cell (CAR T) cancer therapies. According to Belen Garijo, president and CEO of the Merck’s biopharmaceutical business, the collaboration with Intrexon underlies the focus of Merck on innovation, and enhances its R&D technology portfolio in immuno-oncology. “Moreover, it showcases our commitment to developing therapies that have the potential to significantly evolve the way cancer is treated,” he added.
CAR T cells are genetically engineered T cells with synthetic receptors that recognize a specific antigen expressed on tumor cells. When CAR T cells bind to a target, an immunological attack against the cancer cells is triggered. Utilizing Intrexon's cell engineering techniques and RheoSwitch® platform, the collaboration aims to develop leading-edge products that empower the immune system in a regulated manner to overcome the current challenges of CAR T-cell therapy.
The agreement provides Merck with exclusive access to Intrexon's proprietary and complementary suite of technologies to engineer T cells with optimized and inducible gene expression, as recently strengthened by a license agreement with the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center.
Intrexon will be responsible for all platform and product development until IND filing. Merck KGaA will nominate targets of interest for which CAR T-cell products will be developed. Merck will also lead the IND filing and pre-IND interactions, clinical development and commercialization. In addition, Intrexon has the opportunity to explore targets independently, granting Merck KGaA Germany opt-in rights during clinical development.
Under the terms of the agreement, Intrexon will receive an upfront payment of $115 million. For the first two targets of interest selected by Merck KGaA, Intrexon will receive research funding and is eligible to receive up to $826 million development, regulatory, and commercial milestones, as well as tiered royalties on product sales. In addition, Intrexon is also eligible to receive further payments upon achievement of certain technology development milestones.