2022-07-27| Licensing

Oncology Research Collaboration between Kelun-Biotech and MSD

by Max Heirich
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On July 26, Kelun-Biotech, a subsidiary of Sichuan Kelun Pharmaceutical Co., Ltd, announced that an exclusive licensing agreement has been created between it and Merck & Co. (MSD). The intent of the collaboration is for MSD to exclusively produce an investigational antibody drug conjugate (ADC) for the treatment of solid tumors for Kelun.

Kelun Could Potentially Receive $901 Million in Total

Investigational ADCs work by delivering deactivated cytotoxins to cancer cells, whereupon entering the toxins reactivate and kill the cell. As a part of the agreement, Kelun will collaborate with MSD in the early clinical development of such a drug for use in solid tumors, which are cancerous masses that lack cysts or liquid areas. 

After the early development of the ADC, MSD has been granted the exclusive rights to further development, in addition to manufacturing and marketing. For this, Kelun-Biotech will receive a payment of $35million. However, under the terms of this agreement, they are eligible to receive further development, approval, and commercial payments, which have the potential to total $901 million. 

MSD has a history of making similar transactions; earlier this year, they exercised the option of another ADC by the name of SKB-264, which targets TROP2, an intracellular calcium signal transducer that is expressed in many cancers. Currently, SKB-264 is in a Phase 3 clinical trial for the treatment of metastatic triple-negative breast cancer and in Phase 2 trials for non-small cell lung cancer and advanced solid tumors. Kelun-Biotech has even agreed to assist MSD in evaluating SKB-264 as a monotherapy for advanced solid tumors.

The two companies had previously come to a similar agreement in May of this year. Published on the Shenzhen Stock Exchange website, an official document stated that, in return for MSD receiving the exclusive rights to market an undisclosed drug, they would receive $17 million upon the effective date of the agreement. Upon their signing, they were to receive another $30 million, which had the potential to grow to $1.3 billion via payment milestones. 

Dr. Junyou Ge, Chief Executive Officer of Kelun-Biotech, said in a statement, “These collaborations with MSD underscore the sophistication and capabilities of Kelun-Biotech’s ADC platform and the potential of our ADC therapeutics. Incorporating MSD’s deep and broad global expertise with Kelun-Biotech’s innovation power has the potential to generate great development synergy, significantly accelerating the development and commercialization of the collaboration programs.”

Dr. Eric H. Rubin, the senior vice president of oncology early development at MSD Research Laboratories, echoed these sentiments, while adding that the collaboration will improve and provide better outcomes for cancer patients. 

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