Merck KGaA dives into allergy R&D with platform pact

Facing dwindling sales and a thin late-stage pipeline, Merck KGaA is looking to accelerate its efforts in allergy drug development, signing a deal with an Austrian biotech with hopes of quickly seeding new programs in the field.

The German drugmaker is teaming up with S-TARget to get its hands on the company's proprietary platform for anti-allergy vaccines. The technology, called S-TIR, is a two-part system, pairing an allergen-specific immunogen to a standard delivery vehicle, thereby shuttling the payload to stimulate a patient's T cells and relieve adverse reactions.

The plan is to hit the gas on a fleet of new allergy candidates and get into the clinic as soon as possible, said Marco Linari, CEO of Merck KGaA's Allergopharma unit. The deal, through which Allergopharma gets worldwide rights to any resulting drug candidates, reflects Merck KGaA's commitment to allergy R&D and optimism about the market potential of next-generation treatments, Linari said

"With S-TARget's technology platform, we have great potential available to develop new therapeutic forms for the most significant allergens, such as dust mites and pollen," Linari said in a statement. "We will now be working very hard on the further development of the active ingredients based on the licensed technology platform."

The allergy deal is the latest in a long line of pipeline-bolstering collaborations for Merck KGaA, which has struck up agreements with MorphoSys, Mersana and Pfizer ($PFE) over the last 6 months alone in an effort to widen its stable of therapeutic prospects.

- read the statement