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MSD poised to acquire viral immuno-oncology firm Viralytics for $394m

Published on 21/02/18 at 10:37am

MSD, known as Merck in the US, has announced it is to buy Australian viral immuno-oncology firm Viralytics for $394 million – 160% of the company’s average stock price over the last month – provided it isn’t outbid by a competitor.

Viralytics’ work harnesses specific viruses in the fight against cancer. It lead candidate, the experimental Cavatak, is currently in Phase 1 and 2 clinical trials, which also include assessments of its efficacy in combination with MSD’s flagship immunotherapy Keytruda in the treatment of melanoma and lung, prostate and bladder cancers.

“This proposed acquisition culminates years of dedicated work by the Viralytics team and represents an opportunity for significant value creation for our shareholders,” commented Dr Malcolm McColl, Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer at Viralytics. “Viralytics is proud to have progressed its lead investigational candidate CAVATAK to Phase 1 and Phase 2 clinical trials and, we believe that Merck, the leader in immuno-oncology, is best suited to advance CAVATAK for the benefit of patients globally, and to realise its potential.”

The company’s board reportedly unanimously recommended that shareholders vote in favour of accepting the offer from MSD, provided there is no superior offer and an independent expert verifies that the move would be in the best interest of said shareholders.

“Viralytics’s approach of engaging the innate immune system to target and kill cancer cells complements our immuno-oncology strategy, which is focused on the rapid advancement of innovative monotherapy approaches and synergistic combinations to help the broadest range of cancer patients,” added Dr Roy Baynes, Senior Vice President and Head of Global Clinical Development, and Chief Medical Officer, Merck Research Laboratories. “We are eager to further build on Viralytics’s science as we continue our efforts to harness the immune system to improve long-term disease control and survival outcomes for people with cancer.”

Matt Fellows

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