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Merck acquires UK drug discovery firm IOmet Pharma

Merck has acquired IOmet, a privately-held UK-based drug discovery company focused on the development of innovative medicines for the treatment of cancer, with a particular emphasis on the fields of cancer immunotherapy and cancer metabolism.

Under terms of the agreement, Merck, through a subsidiary, will acquire IOmet, including its comprehensive pre-clinical pipeline of IDO (indoleamine-2,3-dioxygenase 1), TDO (tryptophan-2,3-dioxygenase), and dual-acting IDO/TDO inhibitors. Based on the transaction, IOmet will become a wholly owned subsidiary of Merck.

Merck Research Laboratories vice president and therapeutic area head, oncology early-stage development Eric Rubin said: "By harnessing the power of the immune system, we are already witnessing great advancements in the treatment of cancer.

"The acquisition of IOmet is a further example of Merck's commitment to fully realizing the potential of this rapidly evolving field through our existing innovative portfolio as well as the acquisition of promising immunotherapeutic candidates."

IOmet CEO Alan Wise said: "Merck's leadership in immuno-oncology and expertise in development combined with the potential of our IDO1 and TDO programs creates significant opportunity for us to advance the treatment of cancer.

"As a company we have benefited from proximity to world class life sciences research including the University of Dundee, an early stage collaborator with us on the IDO1 and TDO programs and from supportive shareholders including the Scottish Investment Bank. We now look forward to joining Merck and feel that this acquisition underscores the shared commitment we have to accelerating our programs to bring solutions to people who need them most."

Financial terms of the acquisition were not disclosed.

About IDO1 and TDO Inhibition

IDO1 and TDO, the rate-limiting enzymes in the pathway that metabolizes the essential amino acid tryptophan, have emerged as key targets for the pharmaceutical industry in the cancer immunotherapy field. Overexpression of these enzymes has been detected in a variety of cancers - including glioma, melanoma, lung, ovarian, and colorectal cancers - and is associated with poor prognosis and survival.

IDO1 and TDO overexpression leads to tryptophan depletion and high tumor levels of the breakdown product, kynurenine. This elevated kynurenine/tryptophan (K/T) ratio suppresses the body's immune response to cancer, thus facilitating tumor progression and metastasis. Extensive preclinical evidence, and emerging clinical data, suggests that inhibition of IDO1 and/or TDO may synergize with, and help overcome resistance to, existing clinical cancer therapies, in particular other immunotherapy-based treatments.

Data involving IOmet Pharma's novel, pre-clinical IDO1, TDO and IDO1/TDO Dual Inhibitor programs were presented at the Society for Immunotherapy of Cancer Annual Meeting in November 2015.

Source: Company Press Release


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