Merck has acquired OncoEthix, a Swiss biotechnology company, to enhance its growing cancer drug pipeline. OncoEthix will receive $110 million upfront from the pharma giant and an additional $265 million upon the achievement of clinical and regulatory milestones.
With the purchase, Merck gained OTX015, a BET (bromodomain) inhibitor that is currently being studied for the treatment of hematological malignancies and advanced solid tumors. OncoEthix originally gained rights to the drug from Mitsubishi Tanabe in June 2012.
Due to the pivotal role they play in regulating the transcription of key regulators of cancer cell growth and survival, including c-Myc, BET proteins are considered potential therapeutic targets in cancer, according to OncoEthix. A Phase I trial evaluating OTX015 in five different solid tumors was initiated last month.
“Oncology is a priority area of focus for Merck and the acquisition of OncoEthix supports our strategy to prioritize the development of innovative molecules with the potential to improve the treatment of advanced cancers,” said Dr. Roy Baynes, senior vice president, global clinical development, Merck Research Laboratories. “The potential first-in-class oral BET inhibitor, OTX015, has demonstrated early promising activity in hematological cancers and strategically complements our broad immuno-oncology development program.”
The OncoEthix deal is the second acquisition Merck announced this month. Just last week, the company reported it will acquire Cubist Pharmaceuticals for $9.5 billion.