-- Agreement provides non-dilutive research and development funding to advance
novel pain treatments in exchange for exclusive option --
CAMBRIDGE, Mass.– [January 6, 2016] – Quartet Medicine, a biotechnology company focused on the development of novel treatments for chronic pain and inflammation, today announced it has entered into a strategic agreement with Merck, known as MSD outside the United States and Canada, in connection withQuartet's pipeline of novel small molecule drugs modulating the tetrahydrobiopterin (BH4) pathway.
"Merck is an ideal partner to help advance development of Quartet's potential first-in-class therapy for chronic pain," said Kevin Pojasek, Ph.D., Quartet's President and Chief Executive Officer. "This agreement provides a mutually beneficial collaboration framework, while providing Quartet significant non-dilutive research and development funding to advance our program through human proof-of-concept."
Under the terms of the agreement, Quartet will receive up to $20 million split equally across an upfront payment and an undisclosed future development milestone. This research and development funding will be used to advance Quartet's lead program through Phase 2a clinical proof-of-concept for the treatment of pain. In return, Merck obtains an exclusive option to purchase Quartet. If Merck exercises its option, Quartet will receive a pre-determined, undisclosed option exercise payment along with potential development, regulatory and sales milestones of up to $575 million in total.
"Attracting a top-tier partner like Merck provides additional validation to the importance of BH4 in regulating chronic disease, as well as the progress we've made at Quartet over the last year," said Bruce Booth, D.Phil., chairman of Quartet and partner at Atlas Venture. "The Quartet team has done a tremendous job building a compelling preclinical data set around new drug candidates that modulate BH4. We look forward to collaborating with Merck as the Quartet pipeline continues to mature."
About Tetrahydrobiopterin and its Link to Chronic Pain and Inflammation
The de novo tetrahydrobiopterin (BH4) synthesis pathway has been implicated in a range of chronic human pain and inflammatory conditions. Up-regulation of BH4 synthesis in response to injury or inflammation increases cellular levels of BH4, an important cofactor for several classes of enzymes, that results in neuronal hypersensitivity and chronic immune cell activation. Multiple human genetic studies have linked a haplotype in the gene encoding GTP cyclohydrolase I, a BH4 synthetic enzyme, to a reduced risk of developing chronic pain after nerve injury or chronic disease. Pharmacological modulation of either GTP cyclohydrolase I or sepiapterin reductase, another enzyme in the BH4 synthesis pathway, safely restores BH4 to normal levels leading to an improvement of pain symptoms in preclinical models.
Quartet is using translational BH4-based biomarker tools, along with preclinical disease models, to select the ideal early clinical proof-of-concept indications for a modulator of the BH4 synthesis pathway. In addition, the company is enabling a translational biomarker strategy for clearly establishing human target engagement early in phase 1 clinical trials. This dual indication discovery and translational biomarker-based approach will help de-risk Quartet's lead program as it advances through early clinical development.
About Quartet Medicine
Quartet Medicine is a private, biotechnology company focused on discovering and developing novel treatments for chronic pain and inflammation. Human genetics and preclinical target validation data point to increased tetrahydrobiopterin (BH4) as a critical mediator of peripheral nerve dysfunction and immune cell regulation. Quartet is capitalizing on these insights by safely restoring BH4 homeostasis in neuronal and inflammatory cells.
Quartet was founded by scientists at Boston Children's Hospital and École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) in Switzerland in conjunction with Atlas Venture. Quartet's Series A investors include Atlas Venture, Novartis Venture Funds, Partners Innovation Fund, Pfizer Venture Investments, Remeditex Ventures, and two undisclosed Shanghai-based strategic investors. The company is based in Cambridge, Massachusetts and has research efforts underway with collaborators in Europe and Asia. For more information, visit www.quartetmedicine.com.
President and Chief Executive Officer