Merck to Acquire OncoImmune

IndustryPRwire - Merck known as MSD outside the United States and Canada, and OncoImmune announced that the companies have entered into a definitive agreement pursuant to which Merck, through a subsidiary, will acquire all outstanding shares of OncoImmune for an upfront payment of $425 million in cash. In addition, OncoImmune shareholders will be eligible to receive sales-based payments and payments contingent on the successful achievement of certain regulatory milestones. OncoImmune recently announced positive top-line findings from an interim efficacy analysis of a Phase 3 study evaluating its lead therapeutic candidate CD24Fc for the treatment of patients with severe and critical COVID-19.

Dr. Roger M. Perlmutter, President Merck Research Laboratories Commented “Meaningful new therapeutic options are desperately needed for possibly millions of people around the world who will develop severe or critical COVID-19 disease, Recent clinical investigations support the view that CD24Fc may provide benefit beyond standard of care therapy for COVID-19 patients requiring oxygen support, and hence will represent an important addition to the Merck pipeline of investigational medicines and vaccines designed to address the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Interim analysis of data from 203 participants (75% of the planned enrollment) reported by OncoImmune indicated that patients with severe or critical COVID-19 treated with a single dose of CD24Fc showed a 60% higher probability of improvement in clinical status, as defined by the protocol, compared to placebo. The risk of death or respiratory failure was reduced by more than 50%. Detailed results will be submitted for publication in a peer-reviewed medical journal.

Yang Liu, PhD, Co-founder and Chief Executive Officer of OncoImmune Commented “Outstanding work by the OncoImmune team has provided compelling evidence regarding the use of CD24Fc in patients with severe and critical COVID-19 in our Phase 3 Trial, “We look forward to working with the scientists and manufacturing engineers at Merck as well as regulators as we seek to accelerate the global development of this potentially important therapy.”

Under the agreement, prior to the completion of the acquisition, OncoImmune will spin-out certain rights and assets unrelated to the CD24Fc program to a new entity to be owned by the existing shareholders of OncoImmune. In connection with the closing of the acquisition, Merck will invest $50 million, and become a minority shareholder, in the new entity.

The closing of the acquisition, which is subject to approval under the Hart-Scott-Rodino Antitrust Improvements Act and other customary conditions, is expected before the end of 2020.

OncoImmune was represented by Goodwin Procter LLP as legal advisor and Guggenheim Securities as financial advisor.

About SAC-COVID Phase 3 Trial

The SAC-COVID Phase 3 clinical trial (NCT04317040) is a randomized, double blind, placebo-controlled trial designed to evaluate the safety and efficacy of CD24Fc in hospitalized patients with COVID-19 requiring oxygen support, including those requiring supplemental oxygen, high flow oxygen, and mechanical ventilation. Participants were randomly assigned into two arms receiving either standard of care plus a single dose of CD24Fc via an intravenous infusion on Day 1 or standard of care plus placebo on Day 1. The multi-center trial was initiated in April 2020 and had enrolled 243 patients when the trial was closed to enrollment in September 2020.

About CD24Fc

OncoImmune’s lead product is CD24Fc, a first-in-class recombinant fusion protein that targets the innate immune system. Prior to the Phase 3 clinical trial for COVID-19 patients, CD24Fc has been studied for safety in healthy volunteers and in Phase 2 clinical trials for the prevention of graft versus host disease (GVHD) following hematopoietic stem cell transplantation in patients with leukemia. A pivotal Phase 3 clinical trial (NCT04095858) for prophylaxis of GVHD has been initiated nationwide.

About Merck’s ongoing Commitment to COVID-19

Merck has been committed to developing an effective response to COVID-19 since the early stage of the pandemic and is exploring multiple paths to advance the understanding of SARS-CoV-2 infection. In collaboration with Ridgeback Biotherapeutics, Merck is evaluating molnupiravir, an investigational orally available anti-viral candidate, in two Phase 2/3 trials, for the treatment of patients with COVID-19 in both the outpatient and inpatient settings.The company is also conducting clinical trials to evaluate two SARS-CoV-2/COVID-19 vaccine candidates: V590, being developed through a collaboration with IAVI, which utilizes a recombinant vesicular stomatitis vector, and V591 which uses a measles virus vector-based platform

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