Merck & Co (NYSE: MRK) has agreed to buy the Australian firm Viralytics Limited (ASX: VLA) for A$1.75 per share, valuing the firm at just over half a billion Australian dollars ($394 million).
The Sydney-headquartered firm, which is focused on oncolytic immunotherapy treatments for a range of cancers, is developing Cavatak (CVA21), an investigational therapy based on a proprietary formulation of an oncolytic virus.
The candidate is currently being evaluated in multiple Phase I and Phase II clinical trials, both as an intratumoural and intravenous agent, including in combination with Merck’s flagship I-O therapy Keytruda (pembrolizumab).
Merck is already testing combinations of Keytruda and Cavatak in melanoma, prostate, lung and bladder cancers.
Merck’s chief medical officer Roy Baynes said Viralytics’ “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.”
The companies expect the deal to complete in the next few months.