Merck jumps back into Alzheimer’s waters with Cerevance pact

Aug. 9, 2022

Merck (MSD) has inked a multi-year strategic research collaboration with Massachusetts-based Cerevance, marking Merck's biggest move in the Alzheimer’s space in years.

The deal involves the partners working together to use Cerevance's proprietary Nuclear Enriched Transcript Sort sequencing (NETSseq) technology platform to identify novel targets for Alzheimer’s disease. The CNS-focused developer will out-license one discovery-stage program to Merck as part of the collaboration.

Under the terms of the agreement, Cerevance will receive a $25 million upfront payment and is eligible to receive development and commercial milestone payments totaling approximately $1.1 billion.

Merck has been quiet in the Alzheimer’s space as of late. In 2017, the drugmaker halted a phase 2/3 study evaluating a promising Alzheimer’s drug, verubecestat, after the external data monitoring committee determined that there was “virtually no chance of finding a positive clinical effect.” A year later, the drugmaker axed a phase 3 study of the same drug,

But Cerevance, armed with positive phase 2 data from a Parkinson’s disease, trial testing a drug developed with its NETSseq platform, is confident that the platform can be applied to Alzheimer’s disease as well. And Merck seems to agree.

“Progress in our understanding of the biology of neurodegenerative diseases continues to reveal compelling new mechanisms for potential therapeutic intervention,” said Jason M. Uslaner, vice president and head of neuroscience discovery, Merck Research Laboratories. “We look forward to advancing the discovery program as well as taking advantage of the NETSseq platform to identify new targets with the team at Cerevance.”