Merck Joins CAR T-cell Market with $941 Million Intrexon Alliance

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Merck Serono announces that it will work with Intrexon to develop a cancer therapy using chimeric antigen receptor T-cells.


On March 30, 2015 Intrexon, a synthetic biology company, announced an exclusive strategic collaboration and license agreement to develop and commercialize chimeric antigen receptor T-cell (CAR T-cell) cancer therapies. As part of the agreement, Intrexon will receive an upfront payment of $115 million for the first two targets of interest selected by Merck Serono. Intrexon is eligible to receive up to an additional $826 million in development, regulatory, and commercial milestones, and tiered royalties on product sales. Additional payments will be available for Intrexon upon achieving further development milestones.

The agreement gives Merck Serono exclusive access to Intrexon’s proprietary portfolio of CAR T-cell engineering technologies with optimized and inducible gene expression, according to the press release. The company’s capabilities were expanded in January 2015 when Intrexon, and its oncology partner ZIOPHARM Oncology, partnered with the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center to gain access to the University’s intellectual property regarding CAR T-cell therapies. As part of the Merck agreement, Intrexon will be responsible for all platform and product developments until investigational new drug (IND) filing, wherein Merck will then lead the IND filing and pre-IND interactions, clinical development, and commercialization.


"It is a shared vision to maximize the speed and breadth of multigenic innovation for patients through the use of nimble, nonviral DNA cell manufacturing strategies that can further overcome viral packaging constraints and economic limitations," stated Gregory Frost, PhD, senior vice-president and head of Intrexon's Health Sector, in a press release. "Collectively, this will assemble the most advanced set of technologies to empower the strongest adoptive cell therapy pipeline that can drive innovation through multiple horizons and patient populations."

Merck Serono joins a bevy of large companies diving into the CAR T-cell development market, including Cardio3 BioSciences, Novartis, and Johnson & Johnson. On March 17, 2015, Kite Pharma also announced an acquisition that would further its research into the CAR T-cell market, inking a $21 million deal with T-Cell Factory to gain exclusive rights to its proprietary technology platform, TCR-GENErator.

Source: Intrexon