Merck and AstraZeneca Enter License Agreement for Investigational Oral WEE1 Kinase Inhibitor Therapy for Cancer


September 11, 2013 2:15 am ET

Merck (NYSE: MRK), known as MSD outside the United States and Canada,
and AstraZeneca (NYSE: AZN) today announced a worldwide licensing
agreement for Merck’s oral small molecule inhibitor of WEE1 kinase
(MK-1775). MK-1775 is currently being evaluated in Phase IIa clinical
studies in combination with standard-of-care therapies for the treatment
of patients with certain types of ovarian cancer.

WEE1 helps to regulate the cell-division cycle. The WEE1 inhibitor
MK-1775 is designed to cause certain tumor cells to divide without
undergoing normal DNA repair processes, ultimately leading to cell
death. Preclinical evidence suggests that the combination of MK-1775 and
DNA damage-inducing chemotherapy agents can enhance anti-tumor
properties, in comparison to chemotherapy alone.

Under the terms of the agreement, AstraZeneca will pay Merck a $50
million upfront fee. In addition Merck will be eligible to receive
future payments tied to development and regulatory milestones, plus
sales-related payments and tiered royalties. AstraZeneca will be
responsible for all future clinical development, manufacturing and

“MK-1775 is a strong addition to AstraZeneca’s growing oncology
pipeline, which already includes a number of inhibitors of the DNA
damage response,” said Susan Galbraith, head of AstraZeneca’s Oncology
Innovative Medicines Unit. “The compound has demonstrated encouraging
clinical efficacy data and we intend to study it in a range of cancer
types where there is a high unmet medical need.”

“Merck is committed to advancing potentially meaningful therapeutic
options promptly for patients with cancer,” said Iain D. Dukes, senior
vice president and head of licensing and external scientific affairs,
Merck. “We are pleased to enter this agreement with AstraZeneca to
realize the potential of MK-1775 while we focus on advancing our later
stage oncology programs, MK-3475 and vintafolide.”

The agreement is contingent on expiration or termination of the waiting
period under the Hart Scott-Rodino Antitrust Improvement Act.

About MK-1775

WEE1 is a cell cycle checkpoint protein regulator. Preclinical data
indicate that disruption of WEE1 may enhance the cell killing effects of
some anticancer agents. MK-1775 is an investigational orally available
inhibitor of the cell cycle checkpoint protein WEE1. MK-1775 is being
evaluated in Phase IIa clinical trials for the treatment of patients
with P53-deficient ovarian cancer.

About Merck

Today’s Merck is a global healthcare leader working to help the world be
well. Merck is known as MSD outside the United States and Canada.
Through our prescription medicines, vaccines, biologic therapies, and
consumer care and animal health products, we work with customers and
operate in more than 140 countries to deliver innovative health
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About AstraZeneca

AstraZeneca is a global, innovation-driven biopharmaceutical business
that focuses on the discovery, development and commercialization of
prescription medicines, primarily for the treatment of cardiovascular,
metabolic, respiratory, inflammation, autoimmune, oncology, infection
and neuroscience diseases. AstraZeneca operates in over 100 countries
and its innovative medicines are used by millions of patients worldwide.
For more information please visit:

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Caroline Lappetito, (267) 305-7639
Carol Ferguson, (908) 423-4465
Justin Holko, (908) 423-5088

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