Merck KGaA is partnering Phase II and Phase III development of its therapeutic anti-interleukin-17 (IL-17) A/F Nanobody® (M1095; ALX-0761) for treating plaque psoriasis, with Avillion, a U.K.-based firm focused on financing and co-developing late-stage drug candidates. Financial details of the deal were not disclosed, but the firms said Avillion will take on the responsibility for developing the anti-IL-17A/F Nanobody through Phase II and Phase III trials and will also finance the clinical program through to regulatory submission.

Merck acquired global rights to develop the bispecific anti-IL-17A/F Nanobody from Ablynx in 2013. Earlier this month, the firm reported positive data from a Phase Ib study with the Nanobody in patients with moderate-to-severe chronic plaque psoriasis.

“The collaboration announced today with Avillion will allow us to optimally deliver on the potential of IL-17, a compound that could address several areas of unmet need for patients today,” said Belén Garijo, M.D., member of the Executive Board of Merck and CEO, Healthcare. “In parallel, we have several highly promising priority clinical assets in our pipeline, all of which we must continue to drive in-house. By partnering appropriately, not only can we maintain the internal focus on our R&D innovation strategy, but also maximize other opportunities that emerge from our pipeline.”

Avillion teamed up with Pfizer in 2014 to fund and carry out the Phase III BEFORE study with the latter’s Bosulif® (bosutinib) as first-line therapy for chronic-phase Philadelphia chromosome-positive (Ph+) chronic myelogenous leukemia (CML). Positive data from the study were reported in December 2016.

Commenting on the latest deal with Merck KGaA, Allison Jeynes-Ellis, M.D., Avillion CEO, said “We are delighted to embark on this new clinical co-development project with Merck and its innovative nanobody candidate. This agreement is a further endorsement of our innovative business model and follows the success of our Phase III program with Pfizer for Bosulif in CML. We are very encouraged that our collaborative approach to advancing the development of clinical candidates and boosting our partners' R&D productivity is gaining such awareness in the biopharma industry.”


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