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Merck KGaA's Pipeline on Track, Updates Key R&D Projects

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Merck KGaAMKGAF has provided an update regarding the stages of development of its key immuno-oncology and oncology pipeline candidates. The company also stated that it is working on accelerating high-priority programs with a focus on securing long-term growth.

We note that Merck KGaA has been making a series of unremitting restructuring efforts since 2011 with the aim of becoming 'Fit for 2018', including renovation of its research and development (R&D) segment over the past four years, reorganization of the top management team at its Healthcare division and enhancement of the R&D operating model.

Currently, Merck KGaA is collaborating with Pfizer Inc. PFE for the development of avelumab. The companies intend to commercially launch avelumab in 2017, provided the candidate is successfully developed and approved. Thereafter, they are targeting at least one additional potential launch per year through 2022. Avelumab enjoys orphan drug status in the U.S. for the treatment of merkel cell carcinoma (MCC).

Avelumab is being developed for more than 15 types of tumor including non-small cell lung, breast, gastric, ovarian, urothelial (e.g. bladder) and esophageal cancers, squamous cell carcinoma of the head and neck, renal cell carcinoma, MCC, melanoma and mesothelioma. The companies will collaborate for up to 20 clinical programs including the initiation of six pivotal studies.

Apart from avelumab, Merck KGaA is working on developing a number of early-stage immuno-oncology candidates including chimeric antigen receptor T-cell therapies and M7824. M7824 is a potential first-in-class bi-functional immunotherapy, being assessed in a phase I, open-label, multiple-ascending study. Data from the study should be out during the second half of 2016. Additionally, Merck KGaA expects to announce data from a few phase III studies on evofosfamide as a potential treatment for soft tissue sarcoma and pancreatic cancer during the fourth quarter of 2015. Meanwhile, the company is developing tepotinib, which may potentially become the first-in-class orally administered selective DNA-PK inhibitor.

Investors looking for top-ranked stocks in the health care sector may consider Corcept Therapeutics Incorporated CORT and Endo International plc ENDP . Both carry a Zacks Rank #1 (Strong Buy).

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The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.


The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.

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