Merck & Co. Acquires Cancer Immunotherapy Developer IOmet

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Merck & Co. said this afternoon it has acquired IOmet Pharma, a small-molecule drug developer focused on cancer immunotherapy and cancer metabolism, for an undisclosed price.

IOmet will become a wholly owned subsidiary of Merck following its acquisition by the pharma giant. The acquisition will include IOmet’s pre-clinical pipeline of IDO (indoleamine-2,3-dioxygenase 1), TDO (tryptophan-2,3-dioxygenase), and dual-acting IDO/TDO inhibitors.

According to IOmet, both preclinical evidence and emerging clinical data suggest that inhibition of IDO and/or TDO may help overcome resistance to existing clinical immunotherapies. The company presented preclinical data involving IDO1, TDO and IDO1/TDO Dual Inhibitor programs at the Society for Immunotherapy of Cancer Annual Meeting in November 2015.

Overexpression of IDO and TDO has been detected in a variety of cancers—including glioma, melanoma, lung, ovarian, and colorectal cancers—and is associated with poor prognosis and survival. IDO and TDO overexpression leads to excess levels of tryptophan depletion and high tumor levels of the breakdown product, kynurenine. This elevated kynurenine/tryptophan (K/T) ratio suppresses the body’s immune response to cancer, thus facilitating tumor progression and metastasis, IOmet says.

“Merck’s leadership in immuno-oncology and expertise in development combined with the potential of our IDO1 and TDO programs creates significant opportunity for us to advance the treatment of cancer,” IOmet CEO Alan Wise, Ph.D., said in a statement.

Based at Scotland's Edinburgh BioQuarter, IOmet said it has benefited from proximity to the University of Dundee, an early stage collaborator on the IDO1 and TDO programs, as well as from supportive shareholders including the Scottish Investment Bank.

“We now look forward to joining Merck and feel that this acquisition underscores the shared commitment we have to accelerating our programs to bring solutions to people who need them most,” Dr. Wise added.

Added Eric Rubin, M.D., vp and therapeutic area head, oncology early-stage development, Merck Research Laboratories: “The acquisition of IOmet is a further example of Merck’s commitment to fully realizing the potential of this rapidly evolving field through our existing innovative portfolio as well as the acquisition of promising immunotherapeutic candidates.”








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