Merck, known as MSD outside the United States and Canada, and OncoImmune, a privately-held, clinical-stage biopharmaceutical company, today announced that the companies have entered into a definitive agreement pursuant to which Merck, through a subsidiary, will acquire all outstanding shares of OncoImmune for an upfront payment of $425 million in cash. In addition, OncoImmune shareholders will be eligible to receive sales-based payments and payments contingent on the successful achievement of certain regulatory milestones. OncoImmune recently announced positive top-line findings from an interim efficacy analysis of a Phase 3 study evaluating its lead therapeutic candidate CD24Fc for the treatment of patients with severe and critical COVID-19.
“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.”
Interim analysis of data from 203 participants (75% of the planned enrollment) reported by OncoImmune indicated that patients with severe or critical COVID-19 treated with a single dose of CD24Fc showed a 60% higher probability of improvement in clinical status, as defined by the protocol, compared to placebo. The risk of death or respiratory failure was reduced by more than 50%. Detailed results will be submitted for publication in a peer-reviewed medical journal.
“Outstanding work by the OncoImmune team has provided compelling evidence regarding the use of CD24Fc in patients with severe and critical COVID-19 in our Phase 3 Trial,” said Yang Liu, PhD, Co-founder and Chief Executive Officer of OncoImmune. “We look forward to working with the scientists and manufacturing engineers at Merck as well as regulators as we seek to accelerate the global development of this potentially important therapy.”
Under the agreement, prior to the completion of the acquisition, 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. In connection with the closing of the acquisition, Merck will invest $50 million, and become a minority shareholder, in the new entity.
The closing of the acquisition, which is subject to approval under the Hart-Scott-Rodino Antitrust Improvements Act and other customary conditions, is expected before the end of 2020.
OncoImmune was represented by Goodwin Procter LLP as legal advisor and Guggenheim Securities as financial advisor.