Germany’s Merck KGaA has bought a Danish biotechnology company, Survac ApS, for 11 million euros, to get access to a platform technology that could be of use in the development of cancer vaccines. The acquisition is expected to be completed this year.

Survac has developed a system to identify and modify peptides so they can be used as therapeutic cancer vaccine candidates without the need for elaborate delivery technologies or specialised adjuvants to boost their immunogenicity. Survac has already completed initial clinical trials with a lead vaccine candidate that has been shown to generate a strong immunological response to cancer cells.

The acquisition includes all intellectual property owned by Survac, including a broad patent portfolio in the area of proteins that are essential for the survival of cancer cells. Merck said it plans to initiate preclinical development of the first Survac product in 2006.

“A key element of Merck’s strategy in oncology is to expand our clinical pipeline of innovative, targeted cancer treatments and Survac’s lead candidate already shows highly encouraging results in exploratory clinical trials,” said Dr Wolfgang Wein, senior vice

president responsible for Merck’s oncology business unit.