Research will focus on tumor-tailored diagnostics and clinical trials research.

Merrimack Pharmaceuticals and the Cancer Treatment Centers of America (CTCA) established a partnership that aims to provide new insights into the molecular basis of individual tumors and drive the development of diagnostics and therapeutics for tailored anticancer therapy. Merrimack will have access to CTCA’s archived tumor biopsy repository and prospectively collected tumor samples, which will be analyzed using the firm’s network biology platform to identify signaling pathways that drive cancer growth. CTCA’s clinical investigators will also collaborate on clinical studies of Merrimack therapeutics.

“Access to CTCA’s tumor samples greatly enhances the speed and scope of the research we are doing to understand the complexity of cancer cells and to characterize what their growth is dependent upon,” states Robert Mulroy, Merrimack CEO. “This collaboration represents the future of individualized treatment where a hospital and a biopharmaceutical company work together on research, which we hope will ultimately result in much better treatment for cancer patients.”

Merrimack is exploiting its systems biology-based Network Biology technology to discover and develop drugs and associated companion diagnostics for the treatment of cancer and potentially other diseases. The Network Biology platform generates functional and predictive computational models of biological systems based on quantitative, kinetic, multiplexed biological data, to generate insights into how interacting cell signaling networks regulate cell decisions and how dysfunction within these networks leads to disease.

The firm has four anticancer drugs in clinical development. The pipeline is headed by MM-398, a stable nanoliposomal encapsulated irinotecan drug that has completed Phase II trials in gastric and pancreatic cancers. Just two days ago Merrimack announced expanding the global Phase III Napolo I study in patients with metastatic pancreatic cancer who have failed gemcitabine-containing chemotherapy. The study is evaluating MM-398 in comparison with infused 5-fluorouracil (5-FU) and leucovorin (folinic acid) (LV).

Also in clinical development is MM-121, human ErbB3-targeting monoclonal antibody discovered using the Network Biology platform, which Merrimack partnered with Sanofi after an initial Phase I study. Phase I clinical trials are separately ongoing to evaluate MM-111, a bispecific antibody targeting ErbB2-expressing cancers, and MM-302, an encapsulated doxorubicin product that is also in Phase I evaluation in patients advanced ErbB2 (HER2) positive breast cancer.

MM-151 is an oligoclonal therapeutic consisting of a mixture of three fully human monoclonal antibodies designed to bind to non-overlapping epitopes of the epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR/ErbB1) and block ErbB1 signaling amplification. An IND application has been submitted to FDA.

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