Merck acquires Aussie immunotherapies company Viralytics for US$394mn

By Catherine Sturman
Leading biopharmaceutical company, Merck, has recently acquired Australian based oncolytic immunotherapies company Viralytics for US$394mn. The deal wil...

Leading biopharmaceutical company, Merck, has recently acquired Australian based oncolytic immunotherapies company Viralytics for US$394mn. The deal will support Merck’s ambitions to deliver essential cancer treatments, whilst exploring the potential of immune-oncology with one of the largest-growing development programmes in the industry.

Viralytics product, CAVATAK is being utilised in Phase 1 and Phase 2 clinical trials for the treatment of melanoma, as well as bladder and lung cancers.

CAVATAK is a proprietary formulation of the Coxsackievirus Type A21 (CVA21) that preferentially binds to specific ‘receptor’ proteins highly expressed on multiple cancer types.

CAVATAK acts to kill both local and metastatic cancer cells through cell lysis and the potential generation of an immune response against the cancer cells – a two-pronged mechanism of action known as oncolytic immunotherapy, according to a recent press release.

Through acquiring the company, Merck will gain the rights to CAVATAK, whilst also combining this with its KEYTRUDA therapy within the treatment of such cancers.

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“Viralytics’s approach of engaging the innate immune system to target and kill cancer cells complements our immuno-oncology strategy, which is focused on the rapid advancement of innovative monotherapy approaches and synergistic combinations to help the broadest range of cancer patients,” explained Dr Roy Baynes, Senior Vice President and Head of Global Clinical Development, Chief Medical Officer, Merck Research Laboratories.

“We are eager to further build on Viralytics’s science as we continue our efforts to harness the immune system to improve long-term disease control and survival outcomes for people with cancer.”

“Viralytics is proud to have progressed its lead investigational candidate CAVATAK to Phase 1 and Phase 2 clinical trials and we believe that Merck is best suited to advance CAVATAK for the benefit of patients globally, and to realise its potential,” added Dr Malcolm McColl, Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer at Viralytics.

Merck and Viralytics anticipate the transaction will be implemented by the second quarter of 2018.

Additionally, the company has also invested $47mn to construct a new manufacturing and distribution platform in Asia, highlighting the increased demand for access to pharmaceutical products and solutions across the country.

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