Merck extends TLR agonist vaccine adjuvant research, as Novartis terminates asthma/allergy collaboration.
Idera Pharmaceuticals reported that partner, Merck, has extended for a fourth year its collaboration with the company to develop toll-like receptor (TLRs) agonist as vaccine adjuvants. Idera separately confirmed that another of its partner, Novartis, has terminated the companies’ research collaboration to discover, develop, and commercialize TLR9 agonists for the treatment of asthma and allergies.
The collaboration with Merck, initiated in 2006, is focused on vaccine products comprising Idera’s investigational agonist compounds targeting TLRs 7, 8 and 9, in the fields of oncology, infectious diseases and Alzheimer’s diseases. Under the terms of the agreement Idera granted Merck worldwide exclusive rights to a number of agonist compounds targeting TLR 7, 8 and 9, for use in combination with Merck’s therapeutic and prophylactic vaccines under development in the licensed fields.
The allergy and asthma agreement with Novartis, signed in 2005, comprised a research collaboration and option deal, and a separate license, development and commercialization agreement. The companies’ research led to selection of a lead TLR9 agonist, QAX935 (IMO-2134), which Novartis took into a Phase I trial in September 2008. As a result of the agreement termination, IMO-2134 has now been returned to Idera, and the company also regains all rights to develop TLR-targeted compounds, including TLR antagonists and TLR antisense oligos, for respiratory diseases.
Idera’s lead TLR9 agonist, IMO-2055, is in clinical development for the treatment of cancer. In December 2007, the company negotiated an exclusive, worldwide licensing and collaboration agreement with Merck KGaA, for development and commercialization of its TLR9 agonists, including IMO-2055, for the treatment of cancer (and excluding vaccines).
In February 2009 Idera earned a $3.8 million milestone from Merck KGaA, on the start of a clinical study evaluating IMO-2055 in combination with Erbitux® and Camptosar® in patients with colorectal cancer. IMO-2055 is also undergoing a Phase 1b clinical study in combination with Tarceva® and Avastin® in patients with advanced non-small cell lung cancer.
In September and October, Idera independently started Phase I clinical trials evaluating another TLR9 agonist, IMO-2125, as either monotherapy in chronic HCV patients who failed to respond to previous combination therapy with ribavirin and pegylated interferon-alpha, or as combination therapy with ribavirin, in treatment-naive patients chronic HCV.