In the biggest deal last week, Merck & Co. committed $300 million in cash and up to $5 billion in milestones to collaborate with Eisai on a large-scale clinical trial program of Merck’s checkpoint inhibitor Keytruda (pembrolizumab) with Eisai’s multikinase inhibitor Lenvima (lenvatinib mesylate). Lenvima is already approved for thyroid cancer and kidney cancer, and the planned trial program will see the two companies share the development costs to test Lenvima as a monotherapy and in combination with Keytruda in multiple cancer indications, including non-small-cell lung cancer, bladder cancer and melanoma.
In the infectious diseases area, Evotec and Sanofi announced a deal in which Evotec will lead the development of a pipeline of antibacterial and antiviral drugs, seeded by 10 undisclosed preclinical assets from Sanofi. Under the terms of the deal, which is expected to close in the second half of the year, Sanofi will make an upfront payment of €60 million to Evotec and provide long-term funding, and ~100 employees working on Sanofi’s infectious disease portfolio will be transferred to Evotec. Evotec’s existing expertise in infectious diseases will be integrated into the platform. The intention is to expand the pipeline by licensing additional assets, with an overall emphasis on potential drugs for bacterial infections for which new treatments are urgently needed, as well as antiviral drugs.
Finally, in the latest in a string of similar deals, Roivant Sciences has licensed LGD-6972—a glucagon receptor agonist that is in phase 2 trials for the treatment of type 2 diabetes— from Ligand Pharmaceuticals. Roivant will make an upfront payment to Ligand of $20 million and potential milestone payments of up to ~$530 million, and fund further development through its newly established subsidiary Metavant Sciences.