EuroBiotech Report: Merck KGaA-Vertex, Servier-Pieris, Ipsen-Merrimack, Pierre Fabre-Piqur and NeuroVive


Welcome to the latest edition of our weekly EuroBiotech Report. Merck KGaA grabbed the headlines in the week of the J.P. Morgan Healthcare Conference by striking a $230 million (€219 million) deal for four Vertex Pharmaceuticals oncology programs. The deal bulks out Merck’s pipeline at a time when it is plotting paths forward for cancer combo treatments. The rest of this week’s report is dominated by French companies striking deals to expand their pipelines. Servier got the ball rolling by putting up €30 million and committing to more in milestones to bag the rights to Pieris Pharmaceuticals’ PD-1-targeting bispecific checkpoint inhibitor. Ipsen followed up by handing over $575 million for Merrimack Pharmaceuticals’ cancer drug Onivyde. And Pierre Fabre wrapped up the week by securing an option on dermatological formulations of Piqur Therapeutics’ PI3K/mTOR inhibitor PQR309 in certain skin cancers. Away from France, Sweden’s NeuroVive Pharmaceutical continued its own pipeline rebuilding effort by penning a deal with Karolinska Institutet. And more. Nick Taylor

1. Merck KGaA pays $230M for four Vertex cancer programs

Merck KGaA has paid Vertex Pharmaceuticals $230 million (€219 million) upfront for the rights to four cancer programs. The deal bulks up Merck’s oncology pipeline through the addition of phase 1/2 DNA repair programs and a preclinical immuno-oncology project.


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2. Servier pens I/O pact with Pieris, pays €30M upfront

Servier has paid Pieris Pharmaceuticals €30 million ($31.5 million) upfront and committed to far more in milestones for rights to a PD-1-targeting bispecific checkpoint inhibitor and four other immuno-oncology candidates. The deal represents a big boost for Pieris, which had a market cap of $65 million prior to the unveiling of the pact.

3. Merrimack retools as clinical stage cancer biotech after Ipsen deal

Merrimack Pharmaceuticals has agreed to sell cancer drug Onivyde and other assets to Ipsen for $575 million in cash upfront, turning Merrimack into a slimmed-down clinical-stage cancer biotech.

4. Pierre Fabre snags option on Piqur program in skin cancers

Pierre Fabre has struck a deal to develop dermatological formulations of Piqur Therapeutics’ PI3K/mTOR inhibitor PQR309. The agreement gives Pierre Fabre the option to enter into exclusive negotiations for the rights to formulations resulting from the collaboration in certain skin cancers.

5. NeuroVive pipeline rebuild continues with Karolinska pact

NeuroVive Pharmaceutical has entered into a research collaboration with Karolinska Institutet. The deal will see Karolinska test mitochondrial myopathy candidate NV556, a cyclophilin inhibitor that has grown in importance to NeuroVive as other programs have flopped in the clinic.

6. CureVac's lead mRNA drug is down but not out, says CEO

CureVac had some disappointing news to report to investors at the J.P. Morgan Healthcare Conference this week after its lead drug failed a phase 2b trial in prostate cancer.

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