Merck Serono enlists MorphoSys to bolster immuno-oncology pipeline

By Fiona BARRY

- Last updated on GMT

Merck Serono enlists MorphoSys to bolster immune-oncology pipeline

Related tags Merck serono Merck kgaa Immune system

German biopharmaceutical firm MorphoSys will collaborate with Merck Serono to develop antibodies for the latter’s immuno-oncology pipeline.

MorphoSys’s discovery platform Ylanthia – which combines an antibody phage library and screening technology – will be used to discover and produce antibodies against undisclosed immune targets. Resulting candidates will be licensed by Merck Serono, the biopharmaceutical division of Merck KGaA.

Ylanthia is a fully human antibody platform,​” MorphoSys’s spokeswoman Claudia Gutjahr-Löser told us. “It contains 100 human antibodies made in vitro –  we developed these and the screening technology ourselves​.

The library is unique in its size so it gives you a variety of different hits. It’s always important to have antibodies which bind to different epitopes.​”

After some initial work together on immune oncology targets, “Merck was impressed with our Ylanthia technology and was excited to work with us,” Gutjahr-Löser said.

She added that as well as the size of the antibody library, the platform was attractive for its mammalian cell line which produces “stable antibodies with a good half-life​.”

Gutjahr-Löser told us the two companies will work together during the preclinical stages of the programme, with MorphoSys taking the lead on identifying and making antibodies.

After the discovery stage, Merck Serono will take responsibility, with MorphoSys have the choice to opt out of clinical development or to co-fund studies up to Phase III.

Since Merck Serono carried the lion’s share of the cost, they have the final say on any decision during the development process,​” said the spokeswoman.

Novartis partnership

MorphoSys’s Ylanthia platform is also part of a large collaboration with Novartis, as well as one with UK firm Heptares.

In April, MorphoSys installed its antibody library at Temple University (University of Philadelphia)’s School of Pharmacy, as part of a strategic alliance to discover novel therapeutic antibodies. The company will have right of first refusal on product candidates. 

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