9-11-13 3:15 AM EDT | Email Article

Merck (NYSE: MRK), known as MSD outside the United States and Canada, and AstraZeneca (NYSE: AZN) today announced a worldwide licensing agreement for Merck’s oral small molecule inhibitor of WEE1 kinase (MK-1775). MK-1775 is currently being evaluated in Phase IIa clinical studies in combination with standard-of-care therapies for the treatment of patients with certain types of ovarian cancer.

WEE1 helps to regulate the cell-division cycle. The WEE1 inhibitor MK-1775 is designed to cause certain tumor cells to divide without undergoing normal DNA repair processes, ultimately leading to cell death. Preclinical evidence suggests that the combination of MK-1775 and DNA damage-inducing chemotherapy agents can enhance anti-tumor properties, in comparison to chemotherapy alone.

Under the terms of the agreement, AstraZeneca will pay Merck a $50 million upfront fee. In addition Merck will be eligible to receive future payments tied to development and regulatory milestones, plus sales-related payments and tiered royalties. AstraZeneca will be responsible for all future clinical development, manufacturing and marketing.

“MK-1775 is a strong addition to AstraZeneca’s growing oncology pipeline, which already includes a number of inhibitors of the DNA damage response,” said Susan Galbraith, head of AstraZeneca’s Oncology Innovative Medicines Unit. “The compound has demonstrated encouraging clinical efficacy data and we intend to study it in a range of cancer types where there is a high unmet medical need.”

“Merck is committed to advancing potentially meaningful therapeutic options promptly for patients with cancer,” said Iain D. Dukes, senior vice president and head of licensing and external scientific affairs, Merck. “We are pleased to enter this agreement with AstraZeneca to realize the potential of MK-1775 while we focus on advancing our later stage oncology programs, MK-3475 and vintafolide.”

The agreement is contingent on expiration or termination of the waiting period under the Hart Scott-Rodino Antitrust Improvement Act.

About MK-1775

WEE1 is a cell cycle checkpoint protein regulator. Preclinical data indicate that disruption of WEE1 may enhance the cell killing effects of some anticancer agents. MK-1775 is an investigational orally available inhibitor of the cell cycle checkpoint protein WEE1. MK-1775 is being evaluated in Phase IIa clinical trials for the treatment of patients with P53-deficient ovarian cancer.

About Merck

Today's Merck is a global healthcare leader working to help the world be well. Merck is known as MSD outside the United States and Canada. Through our prescription medicines, vaccines, biologic therapies, and consumer care and animal health products, we work with customers and operate in more than 140 countries to deliver innovative health solutions. We also demonstrate our commitment to increasing access to healthcare through far-reaching policies, programs and partnerships. For more information, visit www.merck.com and connect with us on Twitter, Facebook and YouTube.

About AstraZeneca

AstraZeneca is a global, innovation-driven biopharmaceutical business that focuses on the discovery, development and commercialization of prescription medicines, primarily for the treatment of cardiovascular, metabolic, respiratory, inflammation, autoimmune, oncology, infection and neuroscience diseases. AstraZeneca operates in over 100 countries and its innovative medicines are used by millions of patients worldwide. For more information please visit: www.astrazeneca.com.

Merck Forward-Looking Statement

This news release includes “forward-looking statements” within the meaning of the safe harbor provisions of the United States Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995. These statements are based upon the current beliefs and expectations of Merck’s management and are subject to significant risks and uncertainties. There can be no guarantees with respect to pipeline products that the products will receive the necessary regulatory approvals or that they will prove to be commercially successful. If underlying assumptions prove inaccurate or risks or uncertainties materialize, actual results may differ materially from those set forth in the forward-looking statements.

Risks and uncertainties include but are not limited to, general industry conditions and competition; general economic factors, including interest rate and currency exchange rate fluctuations; the impact of pharmaceutical industry regulation and health care legislation in the United States and internationally; global trends toward health care cost containment; technological advances, new products and patents attained by competitors; challenges inherent in new product development, including obtaining regulatory approval; Merck’s ability to accurately predict future market conditions; manufacturing difficulties or delays; financial instability of international economies and sovereign risk; dependence on the effectiveness of Merck patents and other protections for innovative products; and the exposure to litigation, including patent litigation, and/or regulatory actions.

Merck undertakes no obligation to publicly update any forward-looking statement, whether as a result of new information, future events or otherwise. Additional factors that could cause results to differ materially from those described in the forward-looking statements can be found in Merck’s 2012 Annual Report on Form 10-K and the company’s other filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) available at the SEC’s Internet site (www.sec.gov).

Merck
Media:
Caroline Lappetito, (267) 305-7639
or
Investor:
Carol Ferguson, (908) 423-4465
Justin Holko, (908) 423-5088

Copyright Business Wire 2013
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