Deal also calls for $470 million in success-based fees, and sanofi-aventis will fund development.

Sanofi-Aventis is paying $60 million up front for exclusive rights to Merrimack Pharmaceuticals’ early-stage oncology drug, MM-121. Merrimack is eligible for an additional $470 million in milestones as well as tiered double-digit royalties.
Under the worldwide licensing agreement, sanofi-aventis will be responsible for all development costs. Merrimack will execute development through to Phase II for every indication chosen, and sanofi-aventis will be responsible for development thereafter. Merrimack retains the right to co-promote the therapy in the U.S.

MM-121 is a fully human mAb designed to block signaling of the ErbB3 receptor. “Merrimack’s expertise along with their knowledge of biologics development has allowed them to successfully identify ErbB3 as a promising target and rapidly bring MM-121 into clinical development,” according to Marc Cluzel, svp R&D, sanofi-aventis. “MM-121 is a pioneering monoclonal antibody, which brings a new innovative approach to sanofi-aventis’ oncology portfolio.”

The ErbB3 receptor is known to be a key mediator of signaling in the ErbB pathway (also known as the EGFR or HER pathway), a signaling network that impacts a broad array of cancers. By targeting ErbB3, MM-121 is believed to have a broad application across cancer as both a monotherapy and in combination with other therapeutics. Research data has also shown that ErbB3 may also play a central role in resistance to both targeted therapies and chemotherapy in a number of tumor types.

Merrimack developed MM-121 after identifying the importance of ErbB3 through its network biology approach, an integrated discovery and development technique that combines biology, engineering, and computational modeling. The information derived from Network Biology informs the strategic decisions guiding early pharmaceutical discovery as well as helping to advance candidates through preclinical and clinical development toward commercialization.

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