Merck has agreed to acquire US-based clinical-stage biopharmaceutical company VelosBio for $2.75bn in cash.
Based in San Diego, VelosBio is involved in the development of first-in-class cancer therapies targeting receptor tyrosine kinase-like orphan receptor 1 (ROR1).
VLS-101, the company’s investigational antibody-drug conjugate (ADC) targeting ROR1, is currently being assessed in a phase I and a phase 2 clinical study to treat patients with haematologic malignancies and solid tumours.
VelosBio is using its ROR1-targeting antibody-based technology for the development of a pipeline of ADCs and bispecific antibody product candidates to treat haematologic malignancies and solid tumours.
VelosBio founder and CEO Dave Johnson said: “We are very pleased that Merck has recognized the value of our first-in-class ROR1-directed investigational therapeutics.
“As part of Merck’s oncology pipeline, our lead product candidate, VLS-101, is now well-positioned to achieve its maximum potential to benefit appropriate cancer patients in need.”
In October this year, VelosBio commenced phase 2 clinical study to assess VLS-101 to treat patients with solid tumours, including patients with triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC), hormone receptor-positive and/or HER2-positive breast cancer, and non-squamous non-small-cell lung cancer (NSCLC).
According to the company, VLS-101 showed a manageable safety profile and early signs of anti-tumour activity in early clinical trials.
Subject to approval under the Hart-Scott-Rodino Antitrust Improvements Act and other customary conditions, the deal is expected to be completed by the end of this month.
Merck Research Laboratories president Dr Roger Perlmutter said: “Pioneering work by VelosBio scientists has yielded VLS-101, which in early studies has provided notable evidence of activity in heavily pretreated patients with refractory hematological malignancies, including mantel cell lymphoma and diffuse large B-cell lymphoma.”
Gibson Dunn & Crutcher acted as legal advisor and J.P. Morgan Securities served as a financial advisor for Merck for the transaction. Cooley served as legal advisor and Centerview Partners acted as a financial advisor for VelosBio.
In September, Merck announced the acquisition of a $1bn equity stake in biotechnology company Seattle Genetics.
Merck and Seattle Genetics have entered into two strategic oncology collaborations to commercialise Seattle Genetics’ antibody-drug conjugate (ADC) ladiratuzumab vedotin and small-molecule tyrosine kinase inhibitor (TKI) Tukysa (tucatinib).