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The deal with OncoImmune will see Merck take up the ownership of CD24Fc with additional payment made to OncoImmune based on future favorable regulatory approvals associated with the drug.
American multinational pharmaceutical company Merck & Co Inc (NYSE: MRK) has inked a $425 million deal with OncoImmune, a privately-held, clinical-stage biopharmaceutical company based in Rockville, Maryland. Per the official announcement, the deal will see Merck acquire the outstanding shares of OncoImmune with a primary focus on supporting the mass production of the latter’s novel COVID-19 treatment drug dubbed.
The COVID-19 pandemic keeps getting more worrisome after about a year one year since it was diagnosed in Wuhan China. To date, the virus has infected more than 12 million Americans with over 250,000 deaths. The average daily infection rate is about 170,000 and this shows that a significant amount of infected persons get hospitalized.
According to data from a late-stage clinical trial involving 203 patients, the OncoImmune drug of interest CD24Fc is reportedly known to reduce the risk of respiratory failure or death by more than 50% in patients hospitalized with Covid-19 and requiring oxygen as noted by Merck on Monday.
“Meaningful new therapeutic options are desperately needed for possibly millions of people around the world who will develop severe or critical COVID-19 disease,” said Dr. Roger M. Perlmutter, President Merck Research Laboratories. “Recent clinical investigations support the view that CD24Fc may provide benefit beyond standard of care therapy for COVID-19 patients requiring oxygen support, and hence will represent an important addition to the Merck pipeline of investigational medicines and vaccines designed to address the COVID-19 pandemic.”
As noted by Perlmutter and as reported by CNBC, the move by Merck to invest the huge sum in the OncoImmune COVID-19 treatment drug is to provide the smaller firm with the technological backup to scale up the production of CD24Fc so as to be able to get it to the people that need it the most in the shortest possible time frame.
“We realized that this small little company was in no position to make CD24Fc to try and treat all of the people who could potentially benefit from this drug,” Perlmutter said. “We decided that the only way, seriously, that this could be brought to people who need it is for us to lean in with our capabilities.”
Besides OncoImmune’s Drug, Merck Is Also Developing COVID-19 Vaccines
Merck is playing a more active role in helping to fight the COVID-19 pandemic and its move into the treatment drugs for the COVID-19 pandemic. Merck has two COVID-19 vaccines under development and with its push for CD24Fc, it can actively help in saving more lives as the world anticipates the approval of a functional vaccine.
The deal with OncoImmune will see Merck take up the ownership of CD24Fc with additional payment made to OncoImmune based on future favorable regulatory approvals associated with the drug. According to the announcement, “OncoImmune will spin-out certain rights and assets unrelated to the CD24Fc program to a new entity to be owned by the existing shareholders of OncoImmune.” Merck will have the option to invest about $50 million in the new entity.