Quintiles signs on to help Merck KGaA right the R&D ship

Quintiles CEO Tom Pike

Amid repeated pipeline struggles and an R&D re-think, Merck KGaA has signed an exclusive deal with the newly public Quintiles ($Q), launching a novel collaboration that will give the CRO a seat at the decisionmaking table.

Under the 5-year agreement, researchers at Merck Serono, the company's R&D operation, will team up with Quintiles' experts to steer drug development strategy, charging the CRO with handling Phase I through post-marketing studies. Neither partner is disclosing financial details.

The two companies say their deal is the first of its kind, a more in-depth partnership than any sponsor-CRO relationship past, and Merck Serono R&D chief Annalisa Jenkins touted the collaboration as just what the company needs to translate high-quality science into efficient drug development and, eventually, marketable therapies.

Quintiles CEO Tom Pike said the team-up stemmed from an existing relationship between the two companies, and the deal has a shot to forge a new and replicable model that could change the way biotechs and CROs work together in the future, deepening the stakes for a better chance at success.

"We are excited about the opportunities this collaboration provides as we work with Merck Serono in a new and innovative manner that leverages the best of our combined capabilities," Pike said in a statement. "We view this as a key step forward not only for our two companies, but for the way the industry approaches the development of new therapies for the patients we ultimately serve."

This is Quintiles' first major deal since completing a $947 million IPO last week, and the partnership with Merck KGaA fits right in with the CRO's track record of joining forces with all of the world's top 20 drugmakers. Since it was acquired for $3.8 billion back in 2008, Quintiles has spread its capabilities around the globe to lure more and more big-name deals, and last week's public offering valued the CRO at about $5.7 billion.

For Merck KGaA, Quintiles' expertise couldn't come sooner. The company is working to refocus its R&D operation after a few high-profile failures, announcing in September its plans to slash about 1,100 jobs and pour $316 million into the pipeline.

- read the announcement
- check out FierceBiotech's take

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