Merrimack Pharmaceuticals, Inc. and sanofi-aventis announced today the signing of an exclusive worldwide licensing agreement for the development and co-commercialization of MM-121, a first-in-class, fully human monoclonal antibody designed to block signaling of the ErbB3 receptor. MM-121 is currently in Phase 1 clinical testing.
Under the terms of the agreement, sanofi-aventis will make an upfront payment of $60 million and will be responsible for all development costs. Merrimack is eligible for an additional $470 million in milestone payments as well as tiered double-digit royalties on sales of MM-121. Merrimack will execute the development of MM-121 through Phase 2 proof of concept for each indication and sanofi-aventis will be responsible for development thereafter. Merrimack retains the right to co-promote the therapy in the United States.
"Merrimack's expertise along with their knowledge of biologics development has allowed them to successfully identify ErbB3 as a promising target and rapidly bring MM-121 into clinical development," declared Marc Cluzel, Senior Vice-President R&D, sanofi-aventis. "MM-121 is a pioneering monoclonal antibody which brings a new innovative approach to sanofi-aventis' oncology portfolio. We are very excited to collaborate with Merrimack on the development of MM-121, which we believe is a very promising compound that will address a significant gap in treating cancer patients".
The ErbB3 receptor is a novel target known to be a key mediator of signaling in the ErbB pathway (also known as the EGFR or HER pathway) -- a signaling network that impacts a broad array of cancers. By targeting ErbB3, MM-
121 is believed to have a broad application across cancer as both a monotherapy and in combination with other therapeutics. Research data has also shown that ErbB3 may also play a central role in resistance to both targeted therapies and chemotherapy in a number of tumor types.
"We believe that MM-121 has the potential to serve as an important new treatment for multiple forms of cancer," said Robert Mulroy, President and Chief Executive Officer of Merrimack. "We are pleased to partner with sanofi-aventis, a premier, global pharmaceutical company with broad oncology expertise. Together, we hope to work with the international research community to accelerate the development of MM-121 for the benefit of patients."
Merrimack developed MM-121 after identifying the importance of ErbB3 through its Network Biology approach, a fully integrated drug discovery and development technique that combines biology, engineering, and computational modeling to better understand the underlying complexity of disease pathways. The information derived from Network Biology informs the strategic decisions guiding early pharmaceutical discovery as well as helping to advance candidates through pre-clinical, clinical development and towards commercialization.
Merrimack Pharmaceuticals, Inc.