Artios Pharma Limited (Artios), a biotech company established with the help and expertise of Francis Crick Institute senior group leader Simon Boulton, is to partner with Merck, a leading science and technology company, as part of a three-year strategic research collaboration to discover and develop multiple precision cancer drugs.
The collaboration will bring together Merck’s significant expertise and R&D resources and Artios’s unique discovery platform of novel DNA repair nuclease inhibitors and targets.
Artios was founded in 2016 as a spinout from Cancer Research UK’s Commercial Partnerships team and since then, has attracted over £100million in investment and established new labs at the Babraham Research Campus in Cambridge. The company is focused on developing breakthrough cancer treatments that target DNA Damage Response (DDR) pathways in certain devastating cancers that are difficult to treat.
Under the terms of the agreement, the companies will collaborate to identify new targets for up to 8 new precision cancer drug candidates.
Artios will receive a $30 million upfront payment and Merck will have exclusive worldwide rights to develop and commercialise selected therapeutics discovered under the collaboration. If Merck chooses to exercise the option, subject to double digit option fees, Artios will be eligible to receive up to $860 million per target, in addition to up to double digit royalty payments on net sales of each product. Subject to certain conditions, Artios also has opt-in rights for joint development and commercialisation with Merck for the programmes.
The collaboration does not include Artios’s lead programmes, Polθ and ATR inhibitors, for which Artios will retain all rights.
Crick scientist Simon Boulton, who is a co-founder of Artios and is the company’s VP of Science Strategy, continues to inspire other researchers and promote a culture of translation at the Crick, including with partnerships with industry.
He said: “This is a hugely exciting step for Artios. Our unique platform is based on years of fundamental cancer research and now with the support and expertise from Merck, we can explore even more ways to target DNA repair in cancer and hopefully accelerate the development of urgently needed new treatments.”