Merck women's health spinout Organon bags preterm labor drug ahead of phase 3

Women’s health specialist Organon has seen enough promise ObsEva's preterm labor prospect ebopiprant to acquire global rights in its first new deal since spinning out of Merck & Co. last month. The deal is back loaded, with $385 million tied to sales milestones and $90 million tied to development and regulatory events but comes with $25 million upfront.

Last month, ObsEva shared phase 2a data on the prostaglandin F2α receptor antagonist in the treatment of spontaneous preterm labor, an area with no approved therapy. The clinical trial linked the addition of oral ebopiprant to atosiban infusion to a reduction in the rate of women who delivered within 48 hours of starting treatment. 

When it disclosed the mid phase data, ObsEva outlined plans to move ebopiprant into a phase 2b/3 clinical trial in the fourth quarter. Organon is yet to provide an update on the plans, noting in its statement that it will “work with the scientific and medical communities and regulatory authorities in major markets ... to advance the clinical development and registration of ebopiprant.”

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Picking up the rights to ebopiprant marks an early move in Organon’s efforts to build out its pipeline. The spinoff emerged from Merck with 64 products and the initial focus was more on the growth of approved medicines than new candidates. Organon, having identified more than 140 clinical-phase assets relevant to its focus, planned to kickstart its R&D work through business development.

The deal brings together companies spawned from the two Mercks. ObsEva was founded in response to the closure of Merck KGaA’s site in Geneva almost a decade ago. Since then, ObsEva has taken oral GnRH receptor antagonist linzagolix to the cusp of a filing for approval in uterine fibroids. ObsEva picked up linzagolix from Kissei Pharmaceutical, but ebopiprant was licensed from Merck KGaA.