Sunesis Pharmaceuticals, Inc. and Merck & Co., Inc. have announced that they have entered into a multi-year research collaboration to discover novel oral drugs for the treatment of viral infections.
Sunesis will provide Merck with a series of small molecule compounds targeting viral infections. These compounds were derived from TetheringSM, Sunesis' proprietary fragment-based drug discovery platform. Merck will be responsible for advancing these compounds into lead optimization, preclinical development, and clinical studies. Merck will pay annual license fees for ongoing access to Sunesis' core technology as a means of identifying additional compounds for the treatment of viral infections.
Under the terms of the agreement, Sunesis will receive an upfront payment, annual license fees and payments based on the achievement of development milestones. In addition, Sunesis will receive royalty payments based on net sales for products resulting from the collaboration. Merck receives an exclusive worldwide license to any products resulting from the collaboration.
This is the second collaboration between the two companies. A previous collaboration to discover new small molecule medicines for Alzheimer's disease was signed in February 2003.
"Sunesis is a valued partner to Merck, and we are pleased to be collaborating with them on a second program," said Merv Turner, Ph.D., senior vice president of Worldwide Licensing and External Research at Merck. "Viral infections are an important area of research for Merck, and we believe that Sunesis' fragment-based drug discovery approach has the potential to play a key role in the discovery of potent and targeted anti-viral medicines."
"Merck is dedicated to quality and innovation in medicine, and we are proud to be collaborating with them on another important therapeutic program," said Daniel Swisher, CEO of Sunesis Pharmaceuticals. "The continued satisfaction of our partners further validates the capacity of Sunesis's drug discovery engine to consistently produce highly targeted small molecule medicines."
Sunesis will apply the company's proprietary TetheringSM approach to identify fragments that bind with high affinity to antiviral targets. Sunesis will leverage these fragments as the foundation for potential new drugs with the ability to address viral infections.