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Merck and Ambrx expand collaboration to develop multiple sclerosis drug

Merck Serono, a division of Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany, and Ambrx, a biopharmaceutical company, have announced a global strategic collaboration to develop and commercialize Ambrx's ARX424 preclinical product candidate for the treatment of multiple sclerosis.

ARX424 was created by Ambrx through the application of its proprietary protein optimization technology, ReCODE. This second collaboration between the two companies follows a previous agreement announced in 2007 to develop ARX201, Ambrx’s long-acting growth hormone product, currently in Phase II of clinical development.

Under the terms of the agreement, Merck Serono will receive worldwide exclusive development and commercialization rights for ARX424. Merck Serono will make an initial payment to Ambrx, and Ambrx is eligible to receive undisclosed clinical, regulatory and commercial milestone payments based upon the successful development and commercialization of potential products resulting from this collaboration, as well as undisclosed royalties on the associated worldwide net sales.

Ambrx also retains the option to convert its right to receive royalties in the US to a profit and loss sharing option. If the option is exercised, Ambrx and Merck Serono will share global development expenses, US commercialization expenses as well as profit. In addition, Merck Serono will make an undisclosed equity investment in Ambrx. Additional terms of the collaboration were not disclosed.

Vincent Aurentz, executive vice president of portfolio development at Merck Serono, said: This second collaboration with Ambrx not only demonstrates their robust R&D capability, it also strengthens our partnership to deliver innovative products to the market to help improve the quality of life of patients.