Merck snags rights to head and neck cancer drug for about $1b

March 2, 2021

Germany’s Merck KGgA and Swiss-based Debiopharm have jumped into a development agreement centered around a head and neck cancer therapy.

As part of the agreement, Merck will pay for exclusive worldwide licensing rights for the drug, xevinapant, an oral IAPs (inhibitor of apoptosis proteins) antagonist. 

In a mid-stage study, the drug, in combination with chemo, was shown to reduce the risk of death by 51 percent compared to standard treatments. According to the companies, xevinapant is the only medicine in its class in late-stage trials and has the potential to become a first-in-class treatment.

As part of the deal, potentially valued near $1 billion, Merck will pay Debiopharm cash up front and then additional payments for hitting certain development and regulatory milestones, along with royalties.

Read the full press release.