Merck adds oncolytics combo study to its huge Keytruda effort

Merck ($MRK) and Houston-based DNAtrix have struck a deal to collaborate on a combination study of the pharma giant's checkpoint inhibitor Keytruda with the biotech's oncolytics immunotherapy DNX-2401. No deal terms were disclosed, but longtime observers will note that Merck R&D chief Roger Perlmutter was an early advocate of oncolytics' potential when he was running the research arm at Amgen ($AMGN) (now pursuing an approval for T-Vec). The oncolytics approach is designed to spur a viral attack that can implode cancer cells while launching an immune system attack. And Perlmutter has maintained a huge commitment to expanding on a pioneering approval for Keytruda. A spokesperson for Merck notes that the company is conducting more than 130 clinical trials for Keytruda across more than 30 tumor types. There are 80 ongoing and planned combo studies. Investigators have been enrolling more than 22,000 patients for the monotherapy and in combination with other therapies. Release