Astex and MSD expand cancer drug discovery collaboration


Astex Pharmaceuticals and MSD (Merck & Co) have announced an exclusive worldwide research collaboration to identify small molecule candidates with activity towards a tumour suppressor protein for the treatment of cancer.

Under the terms of the agreement, Astex will apply its fragment-based drug discovery platform to develop compounds targeting multiple forms of the p53 tumour suppressor protein and provide MSD with lead compounds for further optimisation and preclinical development. MSD is granted an exclusive global license to research, develop, and commercialise candidates arising under the collaboration.

“Astex is applying its fragment-based drug discovery capability to design and generate small molecule modulators tailored to a wide range of potentially important therapeutic targets,” said Harren Jhoti, President and CEO of Astex. “This new alliance builds on our existing productive collaboration and allows us to combine our expertise and assets with MSD’s wide-ranging oncology capabilities.”

Astex will receive an upfront payment of $35 million and is eligible for milestone payments associated with the achievement of preclinical, clinical, regulatory and sales milestones, totalling approximately $500 million per program, as well as tiered royalties on sales of any products arising from the collaboration.  MSD will assume responsibility for funding all future research and development of lead candidates as well as commercialisation of products globally.

“At MSD we are committed to driving innovation with the goal of improving outcomes for patients with cancer,” said George Addona, Senior Vice President Discovery and Translational Medicine, MSD. “We look forward to building on our collaboration with the Astex team to advance this potentially impactful area of oncology research.”

Edited by Diana Spencer, Senior Digital Content Editor, Drug Discovery World

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