Merck Acquires OncoEthix, a Privately Held Oncology Company Developing Novel BET Inhibitors for Hematological and Solid Cancers


December 18, 2014 7:30 am ET

Acquisition Expands Merck’s Oncology Portfolio with Novel Oral BET Inhibitor, OTX015

Merck (NYSE:MRK), known as MSD outside the United States and Canada,
announced today that it has acquired, through a subsidiary, OncoEthix, a
Swiss-based privately held biotechnology company specializing in
oncology drug development. Through the acquisition, Merck has gained an
investigational, novel oral BET (bromodomain) inhibitor, OTX015, which
is currently in Phase 1b studies for the treatment of hematological
malignancies and advanced solid tumors.

“Oncology is a priority area of focus for Merck and the acquisition of
OncoEthix supports our strategy to prioritize the development of
innovative molecules with the potential to improve the treatment of
advanced cancers,” said Dr. Roy Baynes, senior vice president, global
clinical development, Merck Research Laboratories. “The potential
first-in-class oral BET inhibitor, OTX015, has demonstrated early
promising activity in hematological cancers and strategically
complements our broad immuno-oncology development program.”

“We are delighted that OTX015 will now be in the hands of Merck, a
company with a successful track record of developing cutting-edge
therapies,” said Bertrand Damour, chief executive officer, OncoEthix.
“The acquisition underlines the promise that OTX015 has shown in the
treatment of hematological malignancies, and the potential it has for
the treatment of advanced solid tumors. We are confident that our
transaction with Merck best positions OTX015 to be developed to its full
potential in areas of high unmet medical need.”

BET proteins are considered potential therapeutic targets in cancer, as
they play a pivotal role in regulating the transcription of key
regulators of cancer cell growth and survival, including c-Myc.
Interim data from ongoing Phase I clinical studies of OTX015 have
demonstrated meaningful clinical activity in patients with hematological
malignancies. Interim data were recently presented at the American
Association of Cancer Research (AACR) Annual Meeting in April 2014. An
international, open-label Phase 1 study evaluating OTX015 in five
different solid tumors was initiated in November 2014.

Financial terms of the acquisition include an upfront payment of up to
$110 million to OncoEthix. Additional milestone payments of up to $265
million are contingent upon certain clinical and regulatory events being

About OncoEthix

Founded in 2009, OncoEthix is a Swiss-based privately held biotechnology
company aiming to develop a small portfolio of oncology drug candidates.
The Company’s lead product, OTX015, is an investigational orally
administered synthetic small molecule targeted to BET bromodomain
proteins 2/3/4. OTX015 was in-licensed from Mitsubishi Tanabe Pharma
Corporation in March 2012 following completion of Phase I clinical
studies in healthy volunteers.

OncoEthix has raised a total of US$30 million in venture capital to
date: investors include Index Ventures, SV Life Sciences, Endeavour
Vision and Edmond de Rothschild Investment Partners. For more
information please see:

Merck’s Focus on Cancer

Our goal is to translate breakthrough science into biomedical
innovations to help people with cancer worldwide. For Merck Oncology,
helping people fight cancer is our passion, supporting accessibility to
our cancer medicines is our commitment, and pursuing research in
immuno-oncology and other areas of breakthrough science is our focus to
potentially bring new hope to people with cancer. For more information
about our oncology clinical trials, visit

About Merck

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Forward-Looking Statement

This news release includes “forward-looking statements” within the
meaning of the safe harbor provisions of the United States Private
Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995. These statements are based
upon the current beliefs and expectations of Merck’s management and are
subject to significant risks and uncertainties. There can be no
guarantees with respect to pipeline products that the products will
receive the necessary regulatory approvals or that they will prove to be
commercially successful. If underlying assumptions prove inaccurate or
risks or uncertainties materialize, actual results may differ materially
from those set forth in the forward-looking statements.

Risks and uncertainties include, but are not limited to, general
industry conditions and competition; general economic factors, including
interest rate and currency exchange rate fluctuations; the impact of
pharmaceutical industry regulation and healthcare legislation in the
United States and internationally; global trends toward healthcare cost
containment; technological advances, new products and patents attained
by competitors; challenges inherent in new product development,
including obtaining regulatory approval; Merck’s ability to accurately
predict future market conditions; manufacturing difficulties or delays;
financial instability of international economies and sovereign risk;
dependence on the effectiveness of Merck’s patents and other protections
for innovative products; and the exposure to litigation, including
patent litigation, and/or regulatory actions.

Merck undertakes no obligation to publicly update any forward-looking
statement, whether as a result of new information, future events or
otherwise. Additional factors that could cause results to differ
materially from those described in the forward-looking statements can be
found in Merck’s 2013 Annual Report on Form 10-K and the company’s other
filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) available at
the SEC’s Internet site (

Pamela Eisele, 267-305-3558
Claire Mulhearn, 908-236-1118
Joseph Romanelli, 908-740-1986
Justin Holko, 908-740-1879

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