Merck Serono nabs rights to ONO-4641 for multiple sclerosis, and Ono will co-develop immunotherapy Stimuvax in Japan.

Merck Serono and Ono Pharmaceuticals inked separate deals relating to  development and commercialization Ono’s Phase II oral multiple sclerosis candidate, ONO-4641, and co-development of Merck Serono’s Phase III cancer immunotherapeutic Stimuvax.

Under terms of the deal for ONO-4641, Merck Serono will pay ¥1.5 billion (about €14 million, or $18.75 million) up front  for exclusive rights to develop the drug worldwide, except Japan, Korea, and Taiwan. Ono will in addition receive development, regulatory, and commercial milestones. Under terms of the separate Stimuvax agreement Ono will pay Merck Serono €5 million up front for rights to co-develop and co-market the cancer drug in Japan.

Stimuvax is designed to stimulate the body’s immune system to identify and target cells expressing the cell surface glycoprotein MUC1. Merck Serono’s  Japanese subsidiary is currently conducting a Phase II trial in Japan to evaluate the drug as a treatment for non-small-cell lung cancer (NSCLC). Outside Japan Stimuvax is undergoing Phase III studies (the Start and Inspire trials) in patients with unresectable stage III NSCLC. 

Ono’s ONO-4641 is a spingosine-1-phosphate (S1P) receptor agonist that is currently being evaluated in an international Phase II study in patients with relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis.

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