Germany’s Merck invests in immune-oncology in Switzerland

By Flora Southey

- Last updated on GMT


Related tags Investment

Merck KGaA’s corporate venture division has created an immune-oncology company based on a mixture of small and large molecule drugs, including Merck and Pfizer’s Bavencio (avelumab). 

The new Geneva, Switzerland-based company iOnctura will focus on developing drugs targeting immunosuppression in the tumour microenvironment, and will clinically assess its portfolio in conjunction with shareholder Cancer Research Technology (CRT).

“Our goal is to modulate key culprits of immunosuppression in the tumour microenvironment to maximize the therapeutic potential of checkpoint inhibitors for patients,”​ said Catherine Pickering, CEO of the new venture.

“Merck has exclusively licensed two assets to iOnctura and will provide supply of avelumab for future clinical evaluation,”​ Pickering told Biopharma-Reporter. iOnctura’s pipeline also consists of three CRT assets.

The firm has entered a research collaboration with CRT Discovery Laboratories, where some of its R&D will be carried out. The CEO told us the remaining R&D will be outsourced.

Pickering said the venture will create new jobs down the line.

CRT has offered iOnctura the exclusive global option to license three of its immune-oncology assets, whereas iOnctura, which provided initial equity holding in the company, will further invest in order to achieve late development and approval milestones, and will pay royalties on sales.

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