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AZ attempts to clear dust of Mystic trial with $8.5 billion MSD deal

Published on 27/07/17 at 03:11pm

It will be some time before the Mystic catastrophe hoo-ha dies down for AstraZeneca but it made a pre-emptive move to curtail coverage with a big announcement – the inking of an $8.5 billion deal with MSD (known as Merck in North America).

The news was released as part of a double-whammy of news, with the deal announced shortly before the disaster of the Mystic trial was revealed. The attempt to smother the story, unsurprisingly, did not gain much momentum, but it represents a tactical shift by AZ to hedge its losses on the trial with a safer commercialisation deal with MSD.

The deal sees MSD pay AZ up to $8.5 billion for a partnership that will see MSD co-develop and co-commercialise Lynparza and selumetinib as monotherapies and in combination with other drugs. Together they will fund the development of Lynparza alongside their immunotherapy treatments, Keytruda and Imfinzi.

Lymparza is currently approved as an oral treatment for BRCA-mutated advanced ovarian cancer but it is already in development for further indications, such as breast and prostate cancer.

For MSD, it represents a major opportunity to pair the drug with Keytruda – potentially cementing its place at the top of the immunotherapy pyramid with a successful combination indication. For AZ, it means admitting that the chance of this position is now gone for Imfinzi, after the failure in the Mystic trial.

The deal sees AZ receive $1.6 billion up-front, with $750 tied to licensing options and the rest locked into milestone payments. Profits from the two drugs will be shared equally between the two companies.

Pascal Soriot, CEO of AstraZeneca, said: “Our strategic collaboration builds on scientific evidence that PARP and MEK inhibitors can be combined with PD-L1/PD-1 inhibitors for a range of tumours. By bringing together the expertise of two leading oncology innovators, we will accelerate Lynparza’s potential to become the preferred backbone of many immuno-oncology combination therapies as the world’s first and leading PARP inhibitor. This is a truly exciting step and we are pleased to work with Merck, a company that shares our passion for science to deliver new medicines for cancer patients.”

The release of the news did little to prevent the share price of AZ nosediving, with a line graph of the share price for the company currently looking like a two dimensional drawing of the cliffs of Dover.

Ben Hargreaves

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