Merck & Co. to Buy German Immuno-Oncology Firm in Nearly $560-Million Deal

With this acquisition, Merck gains a lead anti-tumor drug candidate and a proprietary technology that can potentially induce immediate and long-term anti-tumor immunity.
Sep 07, 2017
By BioPharm International Editors

On Sep. 6, 2017, Merck & Co. announced that it will acquire Rigontec, a German immuno-oncology company specializing in retinoic acid-inducible gene I (RIG-I)-targeting therapeutics, in a deal worth up to EUR 464 million (US$557 million).

Under the agreement, Merck, through a subsidiary, will make an upfront cash payment of EUR 115 million (US$138 million) to Rigontec’s shareholders. Merck may also make additional contingent payments of up to EUR 349 million (US$419 million) based on certain clinical, development, regulatory, and commercial milestones. The transaction is subject to certain closing conditions.

Rigontec, which was spun-out in 2014 from the University of Bonn, Germany, is taking a different approach to cancer immunotherapy by accessing the RIG-I pathway, part of the innate immune system, to induce immediate and long-term anti-tumor immunity. Through the acquisition, Merck gains Rigontec’s lead candidate, RGT100, currently in Phase I development for treating various tumors.

“Rigontec’s immuno-oncology approach of engaging the innate immune system to safely eliminate cancer cells complements our strategy and our current pipeline,” said Dr. Eric Rubin, vice president of early-stage development, clinical oncology, Merck Research Laboratories, in a company press release. “We are eager to build upon Rigontec’s science as we continue our efforts in bringing forward meaningful advances for patients with cancer.”

Rigontec’s proprietary agonists specifically activate RIG-I, inducing immediate and long-term anti-tumor immunity, and have proven significant local and systemic tumor regression in several relevant in vivo models, according to the company. In addition to malignant diseases, proprietary RNA molecules can be developed to treat infectious and inflammatory diseases.

Source: Merck & Co.

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