Merck Serono, the biopharmaceutical unit of Germany’s Merck KGaA, says that disappointing data from a mid-stage trial means that it may discontinue development of its investigational cancer compound matuzumab.

A Phase II trial investigating matuzumab, a humanised monoclonal antibody, in combination with irinotecan in patients with metastatic colorectal cancer who had already failed on multiple prior treatments, “has not met its predefined endpoint of activity”, said Merck Serono, noting that it is “therefore reconsidering further development of matuzumab in mCRC at this stage”.

The drug is being co-developed with Japan’s Takeda Pharmaceutical Co and Merck Serono noted that “both companies share the view that the study results in mCRC do not meet expectations. However, they are not giving up on the compound and will continue to study matuzumab in other tumours including non-small cell lung cancer.

Deal signed with KineMed…

The news came after Merck Serono announced a deal with the USA’s KineMed to discover new applications for drug candidates, which will see the latter identify new therapeutic utility in in vivo preclinical models by applying its proprietary translational medicine technologies. Under the terms of the agreement, KineMed will receive undisclosed upfront, milestone and royalty payments.

…and Gene Logic

Last week, Merck Serono linked up with Gene Logic and signed a ‘repositioning’ agreement with the US firm in order to seek “alternative development paths for several Merck Serono drug candidates”

All of these candidates were discontinued or de-prioritised in clinical trials for reasons other than safety, said Gene Logic, which is eligible to get performance-based future payments and royalties, discounted to account for Merck Serono's contribution as the originator of the compound.