Merck KGaA, GSK terminate cancer drug partnership

Oct. 1, 2021

Germany’s Merck KGaA and Britain’s GlaxoSmithKline have come to a mutual decision to end partnership over a cancer drug, likely due to failed lung cancer trial data.

The cancer treatment, bintrafusp alfa, was once seen as Merck KGaA’s most promising experimental drugs but trial data showed otherwise. GSK and Merck KGaA have been co-developing the drug since 2019, and GSK had agreed to pay up to $4.2 billion to Merck KGaA for rights to bintrafusp alfa. Merck KGaA said that no milestone payments were made by GSK and no future milestone obligations remain.

Back in January 2021, the drug failed in a late-stage trial which was testing bintrafusp alfa against U.S. Merck & Co’s bestseller Keytruda in a certain type of lung cancer but was stopped due to lack of desired effect.

Merck KGaA said it would end several remaining bintrafusp trials including in lung cancer, breast cancer and bladder cancer. However, one trial targeting cervical cancer will continue.