News Feature | November 19, 2014

Pfizer Links With Merck KGaA In Immuno-Oncology Mega Deal

By Estel Grace Masangkay


Pfizer announced that it has signed up with German firm Merck KGaA to co-develop and market an investigational anti-PD-L1 treatment for several types of cancer.

As part of the agreement, Pfizer will pay Merck KGaA an upfront fee of $850 million. The company will also be eligible to receive regulatory and marketing milestone payments of up to $2 billion from Pfizer. The partners have also agreed to jointly fund all development and commercialization costs while equally sharing all revenues from all anti-PD-L1 or anti-PD-1 products generated from the partnership.

The agreement allows the companies to explore the therapeutic potential of the novel anti-PD-L1 antibody as a monotherapy or in combination with Merck and Pfizer’s respective portfolios of approved and oncology therapy candidates. The companies will work together on up to 20 high priority immuno-oncology clinical development programs set to launch next year. These include up to six Phase 2/3 trials, which could usher the companies in for potential product authorizations.

Albert Bourla, group president Vaccines, Oncology, and Consumer Healthcare Businesses at Pfizer, said, “Immuno-oncology is a top priority for Pfizer. Combining this promising anti-PD-L1 antibody with Pfizer’s extensive portfolio of small molecules and antibodies provides an opportunity to potentially broaden the use of immunotherapy for patients with cancer and rapidly expand our oncology business. In addition, this alliance enables us to significantly accelerate the timeframe of our development programs and move into the first wave of potential immuno-oncology based treatment regimens.”

Belén Garijo, president and CEO of Merck’s biopharmaceutical division Merck Serono, said, “The global alliance will enable Merck to gain an early entry into the U.S. oncology market as well as to strengthen our existing oncology business in several other important global markets.”

The collaboration will also combine resources and expertise to advance Pfizer’s anti-PD-1 antibody into Phase 1 trials and to co-promote Pfizer’s XALKORI in the U.S. and other markets.

Reuters reports that this mega cancer drug deal with Merck KGaA could extinguish the possibility of a renewed Pfizer bid for British rival AstraZeneca.

Alistair Campbell, an analyst at Berenberg in London, observed that the deal will help Merck catch up with other companies developing cancer immunotherapies, such as Roche, Bristol-Myers Squibb, and AstraZeneca. “Merck is some way behind the leading immuno-oncology players and we believe that to gain a foothold will require substantial investment across a wide range of clinical trials in numerous cancer types. Merck has attracted a deep-pocketed partner in Pfizer,” Campbell stated.