Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany announced a development agreement for investigational molecule abituzumab with SFJ Pharmaceuticals Group (SFJ).
"Our collaboration with SFJ illustrates Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany's increasing focus on strategic partnering in order to further diversify our development risks as well as enable a more efficient pipeline prioritization," said Belén Garijo, member of the Executive Board of Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany, and CEO Healthcare. "Together with SFJ, we aim to progress the understanding of the potential of abituzumab as a targeted treatment for patients suffering from mCRC."
Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany, has completed Phase II development of abituzumab in combination with Erbitux and chemotherapy in a second line all-comer patient population with KRAS wild-type mCRC. In this Phase II study, a subgroup of patients with overexpression of integrin αvβ6 was identified as potentially benefiting from this treatment. With the evolving understanding of the relationship between mCRC tumor location and treatment outcomes in recent years, SFJ will pursue the combination of abituzumab, Erbitux and chemotherapy in a first-line setting in high ανβ6-expressing patients who have RAS wild-type left-sided mCRC.
In a novel innovation model recently emerging in the biopharma industry, SFJ - one of the pioneers of such collaborations - will finance and also be responsible for Phase II/III development of abituzumab. The agreement reflects Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany's strategic approach to collaborations, identifying those opportunities that can progress the company's highly promising clinical stage assets through novel innovation models. Both Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany, and SFJ have agreed not to disclose the terms of the deal.
"We are delighted to partner with Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany, to pursue this new clinical development project," said Robert DeBenedetto, Chief Executive Officer of SFJ. "Our expertise in oncology and renowned ability to successfully carry out various late stage clinical development projects is gaining wider acceptance and enables industry players like Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany, to develop their promising assets by risk-sharing with us."
Abituzumab is an investigational pan-αν integrin inhibiting monoclonal antibody with activity against αvβ1, 3, 5, 6 and 8 integrin heterodimers. By interfering with the TGF-β latency associated peptide via inhibition of the ανβ6 integrin, it has a potential for treating solid tumors such as colorectal cancer. Abituzumab is currently under clinical investigation and not approved for any use anywhere in the world.