Merck ($MRK) has beefed up its late-stage pipeline on infectious diseases, snagging a portfolio of treatments for Human Cytomegalovirus from Bayer spinoff AiCuris which includes the Phase III drug letermovir (AIC246), which has gained orphan status in Europe and the U.S. Wuppertal, Germany-based AiCuris is getting $142 million upfront and up to $429 million in milestones in the deal--its first.
"There is a significant need for additional medicines for the treatment of HCMV infection, which is one of the most common viral infections affecting organ and bone marrow transplant patients," said Dr. Roger Pomerantz, who heads the infectious disease franchise unit at Merck Research.
Merck will take over the R&D work and assume all costs for the portfolio, while AiCuris--which picked up an impressive $75 million round from Santo Holding in 2010--also gets a promised royalty rate "reflecting the advanced stage of the clinical program."
AiCuris reported back in April that letermovir had gained positive data from a Phase IIb study designed to demonstrate its effectiveness at preventing and treating HCMV infections. The once-daily oral drug inhibits the HCMV viral terminase.
- here's the press release