Merck accessing cancer vaccine tech through $300m acquisition

Merck & Co. will acquire Immune Design for $300 million, adding cancer immunization and adjuvant systems technologies to its portfolio.

The deal, expected to close early in the second quarter of 2019, sees Merck & Co. (known as MSD outside of North America) acquire late-stage Californian immunotherapy firm Immune Design for $5.85 (€5.15) per share in cash, totaling around $300 million.

“Our primary interest to acquire Immune Design is related to their unique portfolio of approaches to cancer immunization and adjuvant systems and technologies designed to enhance the ability of a vaccine to protect against infection,” Merck spokesperson Pamele Eisele told BioProcess Insider.

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“Immune Design’s pipeline is centered around its GLAAS and ZVex technologies and includes immuno-oncology assets such as G100, an intratumoral toll-like receptor-4 (TLR-4) agonist in Phase II clinical trials, and lentiviral vector-based cancer vaccines.”

The GLAAS, or GLA Adjuvant Systems, and ZVex discovery platforms are designed to activate and expand the immune system’s natural ability to create tumor-specific cytotoxic T cells (CTLs) in vivo. Lead candidate G100 is designed to leverage the range of endogenous antigens found within a tumor’s microenvironment to create an anti-tumor immune response from local injection.

Eisele said it is too early to detail plans for how Immune Design will be integrated within Merck’s business.

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