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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. 

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