Merck is looking to expand its immuno-oncology portfolio with the acquisition of Israel-based biotech cCAM Biotherapeutics.

The US firm will pay $95 million upfront to acquire all outstanding stock of cCAM, and could also pay out up to $510 million in milestone payments.

The acquisition provides Merck with several early immunotherapy candidates including cCAM’s lead candidate CM-24 – a novel monoclonal antibody targeting the immune checkpoint protein CEACAM1. It is currently in Phase I trials for the treatment of melanoma, non-small-cell lung, bladder, gastric, colorectal, and ovarian cancers.

“We continue to strengthen our portfolio of immunotherapeutic candidates through strategic collaborations and acquisitions,” says Roger Perlmutter, president of Merck Research Laboratories. “The acquisition of cCAM supports our objective to advance the care of patients with cancer by stimulating tumor-directed immune responses.”

Merck is already a leader in the immuno-oncology market with its PD-1 inhibitor for melanoma, Keytruda (pembrolizumab) – which was approved in the EU last week.

And in June the company signed a deal with Dynavax to test combinations of Keytruda and the latter firm’s investigational immunotherapies.