Authored by James Sheppard
The global pharmaceutical giant Merck & Co announced it had partnered with the New Jersey based biotech company Advaxis. The collaboration will see the pair test experimental immuno-oncology drug in combination with a high-profile immunotherapy drug from Merck for a treatment for advanced prostate cancer.
The deal will see Merck use evaluate the use of Advaxis’s ADXS-PSA as a stand-alone treatment and in combination with Merck’s PD-1 inhibitor, pembrolizumab, in a phase I/II clinical study. By using the two different approaches the companies hope the two drugs have a better chance of knocking down prostate cancer than either would achieve on its own.
Daniel O’Connor, CEO of Advaxis said ‘If the combination of drugs shows an added effect, the companies would likely continue their collaboration.’ David Mauro, Executive Director of Oncology at Merck added, ‘PD-1 inhibitors and other immuno-oncology drugs have already shown promise against other types of cancer, including melanoma, but have not yet been tested to any great extent against prostate cancer.’
The deal is the latest success for Advaxis who earlier in the year signed a deal with MedImmune (the biologics arm of AstraZeneca). This combined with some strong clinical data and orphan drug designations mean the small biotech is in a strong place to continue its push forward.