Last month, Endocyte formed a partnership with Merck worth up to $1 billion for Endocyte’s targeted cancer therapeutic, vintafolide (EC145). Under the terms of the deal Endocyte will receive $120 million upfront and is eligible for $880 million in milestone payments. Additionally, Endocyte will receive an equal share of the profits in the United States and double-digit royalties on sales everywhere else.
Vintafolide is currently being evaluated in a Phase 3 trial, PROCEED, for platinum-resistant ovarian cancer and a Phase 2 trial for non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC). The drug targets the folate receptor (FR), which is overexpressed in many cancers that include breast, colon and kidney and is being developing with a companion diagnostic, etarfolatide (EC20), that identifies patients that express the biomarker.
Vintafolide is a small molecule drug conjugate (SMDC) comprised of a highly potent chemotherapy drug linked to a small molecule that targets the FR, and etarfolatide is a SMDC that also targets the FR, however the chemotherapy drug is replaced with an imaging agent for identification of patients expressing the receptor. Endocyte is also developing SMDCs targeting activated macrophages, which has applications for autoimmune disorders.
Merck plans to develop vintafolide in six other cancer indications, and, if the drug is approved, Endocyte will be able to co-promote the drug in United States while Merck has the right to promote the drug in the rest of the world. Endocyte is responsible for the majority of the costs to complete PROCEED, and Merck will fund all other developmental activities as well as hold all decision rights for the drug.
Russo Partners worked with both parties to develop key messages for the announcement, anticipated questions and a joint news release. Additionally, we secured coverage of the partnership by newswires and trade publications, with profile articles appearing in BioCentury, The Pink Sheet DAILY, BioWorld Today and Scrip, as well as regional outlets, including Lafayette-based Journal and Courier.
You may read more about the partnership in the following articles from The Wall Street Journal/Dow Jones Newswires and FierceBiotech.