Pfizer says Merck KGaA Ab pact will speed discoveries in 2015

By Fiona BARRY

- Last updated on GMT

Merck and Pfizer are working together on anti-PD-L1 antibody Avelumab
Merck and Pfizer are working together on anti-PD-L1 antibody Avelumab

Related tags Merck kgaa Immune system Monoclonal antibodies

Pfizer says its antibody alliance with Merck KGaA will let it fast-track development of combination biologics in 2015.

The company said it expects to be among the first three companies for several cancer indications as it laid out its plans for the year in an earnings call yesterday.  

Pfizer and Merck KGaA formed an alliance in November last year to develop an anti-PD-L1 antibody for immuno-oncology use, either on its own or in combination with either firm’s therapies.

Avelumab is an IgG1 monoclonal antibody that binds to programmed death-ligand 1 (PD-L1).

Pfizer CEO Ian Read told investors the companies will collaborate on a maximum of 20 anti-PD-L1 trials, “with registrational intent​” on up to six. The company expects five cancer drugs to come out of the work with Merck, and up to 10 by 2016.

This strategy includes checkpoint inhibitor maps, small molecule immuno-modulators, cancer vaccines, bifunctional anti-bodies, CAR-T cell-based therapy and antibody drug conjugates,​” said Read.

The research could lead to new indications for Xeljanz (tofacitinib) in psoriasis, he added, and Avelumab could be used in combination with Xeljanz (axitinib), Xalkori (crizotinib), second-generation ALK (anaplastic lymphoma kinase) inhibitors, tumour-necrosis factor (TNF) receptors 4-1BB and Ox40, and other cancer indications.

Pipeline: staph vaccine, biosimilars

One of Pfizer’s most exciting pipelines, according to Evercore ISI analyst Mark Schoenebaum, is the company’s Staphylococcus vaccine. The candidate is currently in Phase 2a trials and is scheduled to begin a 2b study within a few months.

Read told investors he plans to turn Pfizer into “one of the world’s pre-eminent biosimilar companies.​” The US giant has a pipeline of five mAb biosimilars: Phase III rivals to Herceptin, Rituxan and Remicade, and trials are due to start for Avastin in Phase III and Humira in Phase I.

The CEO also said the vaccines acquired from Baxter, including those pending approval, will be part of the company’s plans to “generate nearly $2bn in incremental operational revenue growth this year compared to last.​”

Find our coverage of the financial results and M&A plans revealed by Pfizer yesterday here.

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