Merck KGaA signaled Thursday that it will make a bigger commitment to investing in emerging biotech companies.
In the pact, investigators at Merck Serono will join hands with experts at Quintiles to shape and guide the company's R&D strategy while the CRO manages trial planning and execution from Phase I through post-marketing studies.
Merck KGaA has entrusted its R&D portfolio for inflammatory bowel diseases to a start-up Swiss company it's spinning out of the wreckage resulting from its R&D restructuring. A division of the German pharma company, Merck Serono, is seeding Calypso Biotech with more than $3 million and turning over supervision of its investment to the division's venture arm.
In yet another sign that the R&D side of Merck KGaA has derailed and can't get back on track, the pharma giant today said that a late-stage study of a brain cancer drug hopeful had failed to demonstrate signs of efficacy.
The news that Merck KGaA was planning to shutter the gleaming Merck Serono facility in Geneva hit hard last year, spurring protests and appeals that went unheeded at the German pharma company.
After taking its big Phase III study of Stimuvax all the way to a conclusive finish, Merck KGaA said the closely-watched lung cancer vaccine failed to demonstrate a significant improvement in overall survival--a flop that will leave a deep scar at Oncothyreon as well, which licensed out the treatment.
There may be a big second act ahead for Merck Serono's gleaming R&D facility in Geneva. A pair of Swiss billionaires allied with the University of Geneva and the federal institute of technology has put in an offer to buy the sprawling complex, offering to create a major new research institution as the big pharma company evacuates the region.
The San Francisco-based startup Principia Biopharma has landed a $12.5 million financing tranche as it preps for its first clinical program and advances plans to develop a pipeline of new drugs for cancer and autoimmune disease.
Investigators noted that the drug failed to hit a key secondary endpoint on overall survival, but added that they're taking what they've learned in the mid-stage study to heart as they design a pivotal Phase III program for the lead drug.
Danish biotech Symphogen picked up a major league pharma partner today along with an injection of fresh cash. Merck KGaA snagged Symphogen's second program--an anti-EGFR "mixed" antibody now in Phase II--with a €20 million ($25 million) upfront payment and promises of up to €475 million ($600 million) more in development and commercial milestones.