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4 June, 2017 - 14:17 By Tony Quested

F-star tees up potential €1bn antibodies windfall from Merck

F-star John Haurum

Cambridge antibodies business F-star has clinched a €115 million initial deal with global giant Merck that could cascade into a €1 billion bonanza.

The UK company, named Life Science Innovation champion in the recent Business Weekly Awards, has expanded its relationship with Merck through a new strategic collaboration to develop and commercialise five bispecific antibodies in immuno-oncology; these include F-star’s lead asset FS118.

F-star will receive up to €115 million in R & D funding and milestone payments over the first two years and further milestone-based payments endemic in the contract.

Merck has the option to acquire the programmes with a potential deal value of more than €1 billion. 

John Haurum, CEO of F-star, said: “This immuno-oncology collaboration expands our strong relationship with Merck and is a further validation of the potential of F-star’s bispecific antibody platform. Our vision is to transform the treatment of cancer. This is the objective of partnering our lead asset FS118 and other next-generation immuno-oncology compounds with Merck. 

“This deal also underscores the attractiveness of our asset-centric business model, which provides a flexible deal-making framework whilst at the same time maximising the value of F-star’s bispecific programmes and technology platform.

“This approach also provides us with additional non-dilutive cash to support our investment in the development of our own pipeline of bispecific antibodies, with a strong focus on immuno-oncology.”

This collaboration with Merck is held within F-star’s fourth asset centric vehicle, F-star Delta.

Luciano Rossetti, executive VP, global head of Research & Development at the biopharma business of Merck, said: “Our collaboration with F-star will help us to rapidly enhance our pipeline and grow our portfolio of bispecific immunotherapies. 

“This deal complements our internal capabilities in immuno-oncology and positions us as a potential leader in this important area of research.”

To date, F-star has raised close to $200m in non-dilutive capital and revenues. The company currently employs over 80 people at its research site in Cambridge UK.

Merck is a leading science and technology company in healthcare, life science and performance materials. Around 50,000 employees work to further develop technologies that improve and enhance life – from biopharmaceutical therapies to treat cancer or multiple sclerosis, cutting-edge systems for scientific research and production, to liquid crystals for smartphones and LCD televisions. In 2016, Merck generated sales of €15bn in 66 countries.

Founded in 1668, Merck is the world's oldest pharmaceutical and chemical company. The founding family remains the majority owner of the publicly listed corporate group. 

Kiss Communications

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