Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany
Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany

Immuno-Oncology: Investigating Cancer Therapies Powered by the Immune System

Immuno-oncology focuses on harnessing the body’s immune system to mount an immune response against cancer.



Immuno-oncology focuses on harnessing the body’s immune system to mount an immune response against cancer
Our Biopharma business is deeply committed to changing the cancer landscape. Our immuno-oncology (iONC™) research and early development platform, integrating research, early development and biomarker strategies, focuses on discovering and developing potential new therapies that are intended to harness the immune system and activate or augment the body’s natural anti-tumor response.
Our lead immuno-oncology compound is avelumab1,2.  Discovered and developed by our company, avelumab is an investigational, fully human anti-PD-L1 IgG1 monoclonal antibody. By inhibiting PD-L1 interactions, avelumab is thought to enable the activation of T-cells and the adaptive immune system. By retaining a native Fc-region, avelumab is thought to engage the innate immune system and induce antibody-dependent cell-mediated cytotoxicity (ADCC).  
The clinical trial program for avelumab, JAVELIN, is an expansive international clinical trial program exploring the use of PD-L1 inhibition with avelumab to treat more than 15 different tumor types. The program aims to evaluate the potential impact of avelumab in a wide range of cancers as a monotherapy and within novel combinations, including a number of difficult-to-treat conditions.

Global strategic immuno-oncology alliance with Pfizer to develop and commercialize avelumab
Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany entered into a global strategic alliance with Pfizer to jointly develop and commercialize avelumab in order to accelerate both companies’ presence in immuno-oncology. Avelumab will be developed as a single agent as well as in various combinations with Pfizer’s and Merck`s KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany, broad portfolio of approved and investigational pipeline candidates. The two companies will also combine resources and expertise to advance Pfizer’s anti-PD-1 antibody.  The global collaboration with Pfizer is expected to accelerate the development of avelumab in multiple tumor types. The companies will collaborate on up to 20 high priority immuno-oncology clinical development programs with avelumab.

Strategic immuno-oncology collaboration with MorphoSys to develop therapeutic antibodies against checkpoint inhibitors
Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany, and MorphoSys entered into a strategic immuno-oncology collaboration to discover and develop therapeutic antibodies against immune checkpoints. Under the terms of the agreement, the two companies will join forces to develop therapies that modulate the immune system’s natural ability to fight tumors. MorphoSys will apply its proprietary Ylanthia® antibody phage library and technology platform to identify antibodies against targets of interest. With its strong portfolio and capabilities in the field of immuno-oncology and clinical development, Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany, will be fully responsible for execution of development from Phase I onwards.

Exclusive strategic collaboration with Intrexon to develop and commercialize CAR-T cancer therapies
Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany, and Intrexon Corporation (NYSE:XON) announced an exclusive strategic collaboration and license agreement to develop and commercialize Chimeric Antigen Receptor T-cell (CAR-T) cancer therapies. This collaboration advances our comprehensive, science-driven strategy to develop innovative therapies that modulate the immune system's natural ability to fight tumors.

Collaboration with Verastem on combination trial of avelumab and VS-6063 in ovarian cancer
Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany, Pfizer and Verastem announced an agreement to evaluate avelumab in combination with Verastem’s VS-6063, an investigational focal adhesion kinase (FAK) inhibitor, in patients with advanced ovarian cancer. 

Exclusive collaboration with Syndax on combination of avelumab and Entinostat in ovarian cancer
Merck KGaA,Darmstadt, Germany, Pfizer and Syndax Pharmaceuticals, Inc. announced a collaboration to evaluate avelumab in combination with Syndax’s entinostat, an investigational oral small molecule that targets immune regulatory cells (myeloid-derived suppressor cells and regulatory T-cells), in patients with heavily pre-treated, recurrent ovarian cancer. This is an exclusive agreement between the alliance and Syndax to study the combination of these two investigational agents in ovarian cancer. 

1avelumab = proposed International Non-proprietary Name (INN), formerly referred to as Anti-PD-L1 mAb (MSB0010718C)
2Pipeline products are under clinical investigation and have not been proven to be safe and effective. There is no guarantee any product will be approved in the sought-after indication.

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