CNIO and Merck sign license agreement for the development of new cancer drugs

December 18, 2013

The Spanish National Cancer Research Centre (CNIO) and the German chemical and pharmaceutical company Merck today signed an agreement in Madrid to collaborate in the area of cancer drug development. This global option and license agreement will encourage the development and commercialisation of new compounds in the field of oncology.

With this agreement, the CNIO has granted to Merck exclusive rights to develop and commercialise their new inhibitors of the ataxia telangiectasia and Rad3-related (ATR) kinase. In exchange, Merck will make an initial payment along with other potential income of up to nearly 19 million euros, as well as royalties on net sales.

This agreement is the result of Merck Serono, the biopharmaceutical division of Merck, evaluating a group of ATR inhibitors developed entirely by the CNIO, via its Experimental Therapies Programme and the Genomic Instability Group, led by Joaquín Pastor and Óscar Fernández-Capetillo, respectively.

Carmen Vela, Spanish Secretary of State for R&D, who signed the agreement as President of the CNIO Board of Trustees, expressed her satisfaction "at this public-private partnership between a world class research centre and one of the biggest pharmaceutical companies in the world." The Secretary of State underlined the need for "increasing involvement of the private sector in all aspects of Spanish R&D including execution and funding."

"Part of Merck's commitment to oncology includes the focus on strategic agreements that allow us to foster a constant flow of innovations," said Andree Blaukat, Head of Translational Innovation Platform Oncology for Merck Serono. "We are convinced that working with like-minded organizations, like the CNIO, will further strengthen our efforts towards finding the next generation of breakthrough therapies."

"As a research organisation, the CNIO is committed to fostering and promoting innovation. Among other initiatives, the CNIO's Experimental Therapeutics Program carries out early drug discovery projects. The CNIO is delighted to be working with Merck to hopefully translate this research into potential new treatment options for patients with cancer," said María Blasco, Director of the CNIO. "It is through collaborations with industry oncology leaders that we can bring CNIO discoveries, such as those made by the group led by Oscar Fernández-Capetillo, to patients, and contribute new improved products to the battle against cancer."

The agreement encompasses the licensing of two series of ATR inhibitors, as well as a screening platform to validate the compounds, which have currently reached an advanced preclinical stage.

ATR kinase has an important role in the response to DNA damage and in facilitating cell survival. Due to the fact that tumour cells accumulate more DNA damage than healthy cells, blocking ATR kinase activity with selective inhibitors appears to be a strategy worth investigating further for specific tumour types.
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About the CNIO

The CNIO was created in 1998 by the National Health Institute Carlos III, with the essential goal of developing research of excellence and providing innovative technology in the field of cancer. In the SIR World Report 2013, elaborated by the Scimago research group to compare the scientific quality of research Institutions worldwide, the CNIO occupies the second position among the best cancer centres in the word (the first position among Spanish centres). In line with these indicators, the Spanish Government recognized the quality of the CNIO's scientific and human resources programmes with the Severo Ochoa Award, accrediting CNIO as one of the eight Spanish Centres of Excellence in 2011.

Maria Blasco has held the position of Director of the CNIO since June 2011. Since its creation, the CNIO has established collaborations with several national and international companies. Moreover, in the past three years, the CNIO has launched two spin-off companies: Life Length, focused on marketing in-house-developed technology for telomere length determination as a novel method of disease risk prediction; and BioncoTech, which develops a new treatment for highly aggressive melanoma.

For more information, please visit http://www.cnio.es.

About Merck Serono

Merck Serono is the biopharmaceutical division of Merck. With headquarters in Darmstadt, Germany, Merck Serono offers leading brands in 150 countries to help patients with cancer, multiple sclerosis, infertility, endocrine and metabolic disorders as well as cardiovascular diseases. In the United States and Canada, EMD Serono operates as a separately incorporated subsidiary of Merck Serono.

Merck Serono discovers, develops, manufactures and markets prescription medicines of both chemical and biological origin in specialist indications. We have an enduring commitment to deliver novel therapies in our core focus areas of neurology, oncology, immuno-oncology and immunology.

For more information, please visit http://www.merckserono.com.

Merck is a leading pharmaceutical, chemical and life science company with total revenues of € 11.2 billion in 2012, a history that began in 1668, and a future shaped by approx. 38,000 employees in 66 countries. Its success is characterized by innovations from entrepreneurial employees. Merck's operating activities come under the umbrella of Merck KGaA, in which the Merck family holds an approximately 70% interest and free shareholders own the remaining approximately 30%. In 1917 the U.S. subsidiary Merck & Co. was expropriated and has been an independent company ever since.

Centro Nacional de Investigaciones Oncológicas (CNIO)

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