Merck (NYSE:MRK) has acquired a late-stage drug to treat HIV infection in a licensing deal valued at more than $168 million. It also acquired an early stage drug from a Japanese pharmaceutical group for an undisclosed amount.
The deal gives the Whitehouse Station, New Jersey pharmaceutical company a novel lipid acyclic nucleoside phosphonate,CMX157, that’s being evaluated to treat HIV infection, according to a company statement. In exchange for exclusive worldwide license and funding the drug development and commercialization costs, Merck will pay therapeutics firm Chimerix $17.5 million on top of royalties on future sales and milestone payments of up to $151 million.
The therapy joins Merck’s three other drugs for HIV infection including Isentress, an antiretroviral therapy for use in combination therapy for the treatment of HIV-1 infection that generated $1.3 billion in sales last year. Isentress was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug administration earlier this year for pediatric patients two years of age and older, and weighing at least 22 pounds. It also has Crixivan and Stocrin, according to its annual report.
The Research Triangle Park, North Carolina company’s drug is based on a lipid-antiviral-conjugate technology, an approach that is designed to maintain the potency (in layman’s terms) of the drug or the bioavailability. After a drug enters the system its bioavailability goes down if it is not administered intravenously, depending on how long it takes to reach its intended target. It’s a critical factor when calculating dosages.
Merck’s deal with Yamasa Corp. to develop EFdA, a drug in preclinical studies that has shown antiviral activity toward highly resistant HIV strains, according to a company statement. Like Chimerix, Merck will pay an up-front fee and future milestone payments in exchange for worldwide license rights. The drug’s discovery was the result of a collaboration with a group led byHIV research scientist Dr. Hiroaki Mitsuya of Kumamoto University’s Center for AIDS Research in Japan.
The move by Merck will help it compete with the game-changing drugs coming to market such as Gilead’s pill that received he thumbs up from a U.S. Food and Drug Administration committee to recommend the drug for approval and Sangamo BioSciences’ drug, SB-728-T, in development to become a cure for HIV
through a single infusion, as opposed to a combination of anti-viral drugs that’s become the standard treatment for HIV patients.
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