Merck Acquires OncoEthix, a Privately Held Oncology Company Developing Novel BET Inhibitors for Hematological and Solid Cancers

Acquisition Expands Merck’s Oncology Portfolio with Novel Oral BET Inhibitor, OTX015

Thursday, December 18, 2014 7:30 am EST



Public Company Information:

"The potential first-in-class oral BET inhibitor, OTX015, has demonstrated early promising activity in hematological cancers and strategically complements our broad immuno-oncology development program."

KENILWORTH, N.J.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Merck (NYSE:MRK), known as MSD outside the United States and Canada, announced today that it has acquired, through a subsidiary, OncoEthix, a Swiss-based privately held biotechnology company specializing in oncology drug development. Through the acquisition, Merck has gained an investigational, novel oral BET (bromodomain) inhibitor, OTX015, which is currently in Phase 1b studies for the treatment of hematological malignancies and advanced solid tumors.

“Oncology is a priority area of focus for Merck and the acquisition of OncoEthix supports our strategy to prioritize the development of innovative molecules with the potential to improve the treatment of advanced cancers,” said Dr. Roy Baynes, senior vice president, global clinical development, Merck Research Laboratories. “The potential first-in-class oral BET inhibitor, OTX015, has demonstrated early promising activity in hematological cancers and strategically complements our broad immuno-oncology development program.”

“We are delighted that OTX015 will now be in the hands of Merck, a company with a successful track record of developing cutting-edge therapies,” said Bertrand Damour, chief executive officer, OncoEthix. “The acquisition underlines the promise that OTX015 has shown in the treatment of hematological malignancies, and the potential it has for the treatment of advanced solid tumors. We are confident that our transaction with Merck best positions OTX015 to be developed to its full potential in areas of high unmet medical need.”

BET proteins are considered potential therapeutic targets in cancer, as they play a pivotal role in regulating the transcription of key regulators of cancer cell growth and survival, including c-Myc. Interim data from ongoing Phase I clinical studies of OTX015 have demonstrated meaningful clinical activity in patients with hematological malignancies. Interim data were recently presented at the American Association of Cancer Research (AACR) Annual Meeting in April 2014. An international, open-label Phase 1 study evaluating OTX015 in five different solid tumors was initiated in November 2014.

Financial terms of the acquisition include an upfront payment of up to $110 million to OncoEthix. Additional milestone payments of up to $265 million are contingent upon certain clinical and regulatory events being achieved.

About OncoEthix

Founded in 2009, OncoEthix is a Swiss-based privately held biotechnology company aiming to develop a small portfolio of oncology drug candidates. The Company’s lead product, OTX015, is an investigational orally administered synthetic small molecule targeted to BET bromodomain proteins 2/3/4. OTX015 was in-licensed from Mitsubishi Tanabe Pharma Corporation in March 2012 following completion of Phase I clinical studies in healthy volunteers.

OncoEthix has raised a total of US$30 million in venture capital to date: investors include Index Ventures, SV Life Sciences, Endeavour Vision and Edmond de Rothschild Investment Partners. For more information please see:

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Forward-Looking Statement

This news release includes “forward-looking statements” within the meaning of the safe harbor provisions of the United States Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995. These statements are based upon the current beliefs and expectations of Merck’s management and are subject to significant risks and uncertainties. There can be no guarantees with respect to pipeline products that the products will receive the necessary regulatory approvals or that they will prove to be commercially successful. If underlying assumptions prove inaccurate or risks or uncertainties materialize, actual results may differ materially from those set forth in the forward-looking statements.

Risks and uncertainties include, but are not limited to, general industry conditions and competition; general economic factors, including interest rate and currency exchange rate fluctuations; the impact of pharmaceutical industry regulation and healthcare legislation in the United States and internationally; global trends toward healthcare cost containment; technological advances, new products and patents attained by competitors; challenges inherent in new product development, including obtaining regulatory approval; Merck’s ability to accurately predict future market conditions; manufacturing difficulties or delays; financial instability of international economies and sovereign risk; dependence on the effectiveness of Merck’s patents and other protections for innovative products; and the exposure to litigation, including patent litigation, and/or regulatory actions.

Merck undertakes no obligation to publicly update any forward-looking statement, whether as a result of new information, future events or otherwise. Additional factors that could cause results to differ materially from those described in the forward-looking statements can be found in Merck’s 2013 Annual Report on Form 10-K and the company’s other filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) available at the SEC’s Internet site (


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