Merck Serono and Ono to co-operate

On multiple sclerosis and cancer therapies

Merck Serono, the biopharmaceutical division of Merck KGaA in Germany, has signed two separate agreements with Ono Pharmaceutical of Japan to strengthen its multiple sclerosis and cancer franchises.

The first agreement grants Switzerland-based Merck Serono worldwide exclusive rights to ONO-4641 outside Japan, Korea and Taiwan.

In return, Merck will pay Ono an upfront payment of JY1.5bn (about €14m). Ono is also eligible to receive additional payments on the achievement of certain development, regulatory and commercial milestones. No further financial terms have been disclosed.

ONO-4641 is an oral compound currently in Phase II development that was discovered and developed by Ono for the treatment of multiple sclerosis.

The second agreement gives Ono co-development and co-marketing rights to Stimuvax in Japan. Merck will receive an upfront payment of €5m.

Merck Serono Co, a Japanese subsidiary of Merck, is conducting a Phase II Stimuvax study for the treatment of non-small cell lung cancer in Japan; Phase III studies are in progress outside Japan.

Merck obtained the exclusive worldwide licensing rights to Stimuvax from Oncothyreon in Seattle, Washington, US.

Merck Serono is developing Stimuvax in Europe. In the US and Canada, EMD Serono, an affiliate of Merck, is developing the drug.

‘Merck Serono is committed to building on our leadership franchise in multiple sclerosis and we are excited about adding a potential oral treatment, ONO-4641, to our pipeline,’ said Stefan Oschmann, president of Merck Serono.

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