Strategic Oncology Collaboration Established Between Merck, Taiho, and Astex

Prioritizing the development of oncology candidates with the potential to improve the treatment of advanced cancers

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New Jersey based Merck announced a worldwide research collaboration and license agreement with Taiho Pharmaceutical Co, Ltd., and Astex Pharmaceuticals, focused on the development of small-molecule inhibitors against several drug targets, including the KRAS oncogene, which is currently being investigated for the treatment of cancer.

KRAS is among the most frequently mutated oncogenes in cancer says the NIH. 

As the most frequently mutated RAS isoform, KRAS has been intensively studied in the past years.

KRAS is important to cancer prevention and treatments as it’s estimated to occur in more than 90 percent of pancreatic cancers and approximately 20 percent of non-small cell lung cancers (NSCLC) and is associated with poorer outcomes.

Despite its well-recognized importance in cancer malignancy, continuous efforts in the past have failed to develop approved therapies for KRAS mutant cancer, says the NIH.

Merck said in the press release published on January 6, 2020, ‘As part of our focus on cancer, we are committed to exploring the potential of immuno-oncology with one of the largest development programs in the industry across more than 30 tumor types.’ 

‘We also continue to strengthen our portfolio through strategic acquisitions and are prioritizing the development of several promising oncology candidates with the potential to improve the treatment of advanced cancers.’

Under the terms of this new agreement, Merck, Taiho, and Astex will combine preclinical candidates and their data with knowledge and expertise from their respective research programs.

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Merck will fund research and development and will be responsible for the commercialization of products. Taiho has retained co-commercialization rights in Japan and an option to promote in specific areas of South East Asia.

Visit here for more information about Merck's oncology clinical trials.

For more than a century, Merck, a leading global biopharmaceutical company known as MSD outside of the United States and Canada, has been inventing for life, bringing forward medicines and vaccines for many of the world’s most challenging diseases. 

Taiho Pharmaceutical, a subsidiary of Otsuka Holdings Co., Ltd., is an R&D-driven specialty pharma focusing on the three fields of oncology, allergy and immunology, and urology. 

Astex Pharmaceuticals (UK) is a leader in innovative drug discovery and development, committed to the fight against cancer. Astex is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Otsuka Pharmaceutical Co. Ltd. 

Otsuka Pharmaceutical Co., Ltd. is a global healthcare company with the corporate philosophy: “Otsuka - people creating new products for better health worldwide.”

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