Merck & Co is broadening its immuno-oncology offering through the purchase of Australian group Viralytics in a deal worth $394 million.
The drug giant, which is known as MSD outside of the US and Canada, is paying A$1.75 per Viralytics share, representing a premium of 160 percent to the one month volume weighted average price of the latter’s stock.
The move gives Merck access Viralytics’s investigational oncolytic immunotherapy Cavatak, which is based on its proprietary formulation of an oncolytic virus that has been shown to preferentially infect and kill cancer cells.
The experimental therapy is currently being tested in multiple Phase I and Phase II clinical trials, both as an intratumoral and intravenous agent, including in combination with Merck’s anti-PD-1 therapy Keytruda (pembrolizumab).
“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,” said 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.”