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MSD plays catch up with €464m deal for fledgling biotech

Published on 07/09/17 at 09:16am

MSD has announced that it will acquire Rigontec, a three-year old German biotech, in a deal worth an initial €115 million and with further payments worth up to €349 million. The biotech only recently completed a recent Series A financing round that brought in close to €30 million, making MSD’s buyout a huge success for investors and a show of faith from MSD in the technology behind the company.

The reason for MSD’s buyout is to get its hand on the technology that the biotech has developed in harnessing the human body’s innate immune system. It is only a month ago that immunotherapy rival, Bristol-Myers Squibb, also invested in IFM Therapeutics for a significantly costlier $2.3 billion.

IFM Therapeutics also develops treatments to boosting the innate immune system and MSD’s deal shows that this is clearly an area that both companies believe could be the next step in boosting efficacy of their immunotherapy treatments. MSD has then put relatively little money down to ensure that it does not get left behind in the area.

Recent clinical trial results have shown the limit to which immunotherapy treatments can be pushed alone, with failures for both Keytruda in head and neck cancer and for Opdivo in gliobastoma multiforme.

MSD will be hoping that Rigontec’s lead candidate, RGT100, currently undergoing Phase 1 testing, can provide Keytruda with a boost. The drug is designed to activate the body’s innate immune response, effectively boosting its ability to safely combat tumours. The biotech’s website suggests that early research has shown “substantial local and systemic tumour regression in several relevant in vivo models”.

“Rigontec’s immuno-oncology approach of engaging the innate immune system to safely eliminate cancer cells complements our strategy and our current pipeline,” said Dr. Eric Rubin, Vice President of Early-stage Development, Clinical Oncology, MSD Research Laboratories. “We are eager to build upon Rigontec’s science as we continue our efforts in bringing forward meaningful advances for patients with cancer.”

Aside from the potential for synergy in oncology, the Rigontec also noted that its RNA molecules can also be developed for the treatment of infectious and inflammatory diseases – potentially adding drugs outside of oncology to MSD’s pipeline.

Ben Hargreaves

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