Fierce 15 f-star lands $708M antibody pact with Merck Serono

A day after being spotlighted as one of this year's Fierce 15 biotechs, f-star announced that it has inked a $708 million development deal with Merck Serono. In the deal, the Vienna-based biotech gets an unspecified amount in an "access fee" along with research funds as Merck Serono flags up to three discovery targets.

F-star has been attracting attention with its bi-specific and fragment antibody technology, which is designed to build next-gen antibodies that can bind to different sites or strip them down to go deeper into tissue. In this case f-star has also converted one of its venture backers into a full-fledged collaborator.

"We are very pleased to see our investment in f-star through Merck Serono Ventures mature into a strategic collaboration, which reinforces our commitment to deliver innovative treatments in the area of inflammatory diseases," said Susan Herbert, Merck Serono's portfolio development chief. "We believe that f-star's modular antibody technology has the potential to offer important functional advantages over conventional antibodies and will potentially allow us to generate highly differentiated drugs for patients with so far unmet medical needs."

This is f-star's second discovery pact. Boehringer Ingelheim bought into the vision earlier this year with a $1.7 billion pact, which includes €180 million in payments at stake for each of seven new antibody projects.

"Merck Serono Ventures has proved to be a supportive venture investor in f-star and we are now excited to expand the relationship with Merck Serono to include collaborative discovery and development projects," says CEO Kevin FitzGerald.

- here's the f-star release

Special Report: F-star - 2011 Fierce 15