Oncology and Immuno-oncology

We are committed to developing and delivering breakthrough therapies that make a meaningful difference to people living with cancer.


Oncology

We focus on biomarker-driven research to deliver personalized treatments and a transformative, risk-balanced pipeline.

Translational research is embedded in the entire R&D process. With our innovative approach to treatment and novel combinations we address unmet needs in hard-to-treat cancers.

Our pipeline comprises high-quality, selective small molecules, antibodies and antibody-drug conjugates (ADCs). Strong translational research data supports each drug’s clinical development, with the goal of clear differentiation and the potential to become first and/or best-in-class therapeutics.

We focus on five innovation clusters: Oncogenic Signaling, ADC, DNA Repair, Tumor Metabolism and Tumor Cell Plasticity. In Oncogenic Signaling, we have the resources to develop highly selective drugs against key enzymes. In other areas, partnerships are key to enhancing our capabilities. By collaborating with Mersana and Sutro, we gained access to technology platforms for developing next-generation ADCs. In DNA repair, we combined our pipeline with assets licensed from Vertex in 2017 and invested in both new target identification and translational research. As a result, we are positioned to assume leadership of the field. Further co-discovery partnerships maximize our leadership potential in Tumor Metabolism and Tumor Cell Plasticity.

Dedicated to delivering personalized medicine, we are aiming to identify patient populations likely to respond to treatment, to guide optimal dosing and to increase the probability of success in clinical development.

We believe that rational combination is key to developing new and more effective treatment options. For instance, with chemo/radiotherapy, other targeted therapies and/or immunotherapies.

We recognize that no single organization can achieve these goals alone. We partner with leading academic institutions and innovative biotech innovators to complement our pipeline, strengthen our technology base and enhance our scientific capabilities.

Browse the programs in our pipeline to see what we’re currently working on by phase, therapeutic area, and compound type. You can also see what we’ve discovered in-house versus those assets we’re partnering on with other giants in our industry. Learn more 

Immuno-Oncology

Immuno-oncology (IO) is where immunology and oncology intersect. By harnessing the immune system, IO aims toactivate or augment the body’s natural response to fight cancer.

The recent development of IO compounds represents a ‘quantum leap’ for cancer therapy. We believe IO now has the potential to change the cancer landscape. We are committed to harnessing this potential to develop new therapies, improve outcomes, and make a meaningful difference to people living with cancer.

Our IO R&D platform follows a science-driven strategy that pursues novel, differentiated therapeutic targets. Among others areas, we focus on:

  • Releasing the breaks on suppressed anti-tumor responses
  • Remodelling the tumor microenvironment to eradicate the tumor
  • Re-engaging the immune system to find silent tumor cells when the tumor lacks infiltrating immune cells
  • Researching novel biomarkers in collaboration with academic oncology centers
  • Identifying novel drug resistance pathways including Immune check point inhibitors

We operate a translational innovation platform that accelerates the highest-quality science. It includes a portfolio that comprises a transformative pipeline of preclinical molecules and therapeutic candidates in clinical development.

We discovered the majority of our oncology pipeline molecules in-house. But innovation often benefits from broader collaboration. To enhance our expertise, we have created a strong network of alliances with external partners. These include leading thinkers from oncology centers of excellence, as well as industry and biotech innovators from partner organizations.

Browse the programs in our pipeline to see what we’re currently working on by phase, therapeutic area, and compound type. You can also see what we’ve discovered in-house versus those assets we’re partnering on with other giants in our industry. Learn more

Select list of oncology and immuno-oncology collaborations

Ablynx

Ablynx

A multi-year research alliance on co-discovery and co-development of novel biological entities against cancer targets based on Ablynx’s nanobody technology.

Alliance with Pfizer

Alliance with Pfizer

The global strategic alliance with Pfizer enables the companies to benefit from each other’s strengths and capabilities and further explore the therapeutic potential of avelumab. The alliance will jointly develop and commercialize avelumab and advance Pfizer’s PD-1 antibody.

BioMed X

BioMed X

A funding program in support of two research groups at the BioMed X Innovation Center in Heidelberg working on Tumor Metabolism and DNA Damage in Cancer with the aim to identify novel targets and develop innovative approaches in the respective research areas.

Cancer Research Technology (CRT)

Cancer Research Technology (CRT)

A joint drug discovery feasibility study focused on the role of the Hippo pathway in cancer.

Dako: companion diagnostic

Dako: companion diagnostic

The Alliance with Pfizer and Dako announced a collaboration agreement to develop a companion diagnostic test to assess programmed death-ligand 1 (PD-L1) protein expression levels.

Domain Therapeutics: adenosine receptor antagonists

Domain Therapeutics: adenosine receptor antagonists

An important collaboration and licensing agreement includes the development of adenosine receptor antagonists specifically designed for oncology and immuno-oncology. Adenosine has been identified as a key component in resistance mechanisms for many tumors targeted by immune checkpoint inhibitors.

Illumina: oncology diagnostic

Illumina: oncology diagnostic

strategic alliance with Illumina, Inc., will expand the development of a universal next-generation sequencing based oncology diagnostic for clinical trials of targeted cancer therapies. We have also announced strategic collaborations with Debiopharm, Verastem, Syndax and Vaccinex on individual cancer trials evaluating our compounds in combination with other investigational compounds.

Institute of Cancer Research and Wellcome Trust

Institute of Cancer Research and Wellcome Trust

A joint program between Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany, the Institute of Cancer Research (ICR) and Wellcome Trust to develop drug candidates for the treatment of different forms of cancer. The co-development and license agreement builds on two independent research programs at both the ICR and our company to identify inhibitors of tankyrase.

Intrexon: CAR-Ts

Intrexon: CAR-Ts

collaboration with Intrexon aims to develop and commercialize Chimeric Antigen Receptor T-cell (CAR-T) cancer therapies. This advances our comprehensive, science-driven strategy to develop innovative therapies that modulate the immune system's natural ability to fight tumors.

Mersana

Mersana

A collaboration and license agreement with Mersana to develop next-generation ADCs. Mersana and our company will leverage Mersana’s Fleximer® technology to generate ADCs for multiple targets.

MorphoSys: therapeutic antibodies

MorphoSys: therapeutic antibodies

A strategic IO collaboration with MorphoSys aims to discover and develop therapeutic antibodies against immune checkpoints, applying MorphoSys’ proprietary Ylanthia® antibody phage library and technology platform to identify antibodies against targets of interest. With a strong portfolio and capabilities in the field of IO, we are fully responsible for development from Phase I onwards.

Selvita

Selvita

We entered a 3-year collaboration to validate new therapeutic concepts in the field of oncology with Selvita. The aim of the collaboration is to deliver potential first- and best-in-class small molecules as lead candidate drugs for multiple oncology indications.

Sutro

Sutro

A strategic partnership between Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany, and Sutro to develop ADCs, combining our knowledge about target biology with Sutro’s technological and discovery capabilities.

University of Dundee

University of Dundee

A funding program in support of the University of Dundee’s Division of Signal Transduction Therapy (DSTT). Our company – alongside other pharmaceutical companies – supports fundamental research in multiple therapeutics areas including cancer. 

Vertex: DNA damage and repair

Vertex: DNA damage and repair

Our company entered a licensing agreement with Vertex Pharmaceuticals for the worldwide development and commercialization of two clinical-stage programs that represent potential first-in-class approaches to inhibit the DNA repair pathways as well as two pre-clinical programs including one immuno-oncology program against an attractive target with first-in-class potential, and a program against a completely novel target.