Archemix Corp has signed an oncology deal with Merck KGaA which will help the US biotechnology firm get involved in the marketing side of the business, its chief executive has told PharmaTimes World News.

The two firms have entered into a multi-year strategic alliance to aptamer-based therapeutics for treating cancer, in a deal that combines Archemix' Selex technology to generate aptamer candidates with the German firm’s Merck Serono unit’s oncology drug development and commercialisation capabilities.

Under the terms of the agreement, privately-owned Archemix will receive a $29.8 million equity investment from Merck, which will get the option to acquire additional stock upon an initial public offering. Other financial terms were not disclosed for the deal, which is the second cancer pact the two companies have signed this year.

Merck Serono will get the option to obtain product licences to certain of Archemix's aptamer programmes in oncology and the right to select and develop aptamers against six additional targets in cancer and other indications, including autoimmune and inflammation disorders. As for Archemix, apart from funding, it will get the chance to co-develop and co-promote any of the products that come out of the alliance on a 50:50 cost and profit-sharing basis in the USA.

This is an option that greatly appeals to chief executive Errol De Souza who told PharmaTimes World News that his firm’s strength hitherto has been in preclinical research and not in oncology so this co-development and co-promotion deal ticks all the boxes. It also allows the firm to get to grips with marketing while minimising risk to shareholders, he added.

Any marketing tips Archemix picks up from Merck could come in handy with its lead product ARC1779, a novel aptamer therapeutic which inhibits platelet function. It is being developed as an anti-thrombotic for use in angioplasty and in the rare blood disorder thrombotic thrombocytopenic purpura. A Phase II trial of ARC1779 in acute coronary syndrome patients is expected to be initiated in the fourth quarter of 2007 and Dr de Souza told PharmaTimes World News that the firm does not need to look for any partners. Cardiovascular treatments are its forte and “we could market this ourselves as we would only need a small hospital-based sales force,” he said.

Aptamer deal signed with Takeda

It was a busy day for Archemix as it announced a multi-year three-target deal with Japan’s Takeda Pharmaceutical Co which will also focus on aptamer-based therapeutics.

Under the agreement, the US firm will receive an upfront payment of $6 million to generate candidates to three undisclosed disease-associated targets identified by Takeda, who will be granted exclusive, worldwide rights for R&D, manufacturing and commercialisation for any resulting aptamer-based products. Archemix will also receive committed research funding and milestone payments and earn royalties. By Kevin Grogan