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Merus Biopharmaceuticals building to future with strong pipeline

Authored by James Sheppard

Merus Biopharmaceuticals, the Dutch biotechnology company has seen a wave of positive news of late and is now promising to push on towards clinical studies. Merus is developing novel drugs that combine the benefits on monoclonal antibodies with the ability to address multiple targets. The company is developing a bispecific using its patented discovery technology the MeMo Transgenic Mouse.

The Dutch biotechnology company has a prolific list of investors including Novartis Venture Fund, Pfizer, Bay City Capital, Aglaia Biomedical Ventures and Life Science Partners. Most recently the company raised $30m in a Series B round extension funding to help the continued development of its oncology, inflammation and infectious disease assets. During the latest round, Johnson & Johnson Development added to Merus’s investors via its London innovation centre.

As part of the original series B funding, Merus also entered an options agreement with Novartis for an exclusive license to one of Merus’s oncology programs. The deal includes an undisclosed upfront payment and milestone payments potentially worth more than $200m. Merus recently announced that it had received the second milestone payment from Novartis, an undisclosed sum.

Merus currently has 6 products in its pipeline with the most advanced currently in IND enabling. Most recently the company announced positive pre-clinical data at the European Society of Hematology for its product MCLA-117 indicated for Acute Myeloid Leukaemia (AML). The company is now planning to move the drug towards clinical development in 2014.

The past few years have seen the company start to build out its executive management team in preparation for its latest phase of growth. As part of this expansion, Merus has brought in a number of key personnel. Dr Setareh van Driel Shamsili joined Merus as CMO from Astellas where she was Global Medical Leader for Oncology. Mr Jason Avery arrived as Chief Business Officer from Affitech where he was leading business development activities.

With funding secured and a strong management team lead by founder and CEO Ton Logtenberg, formerly CSO of vaccines company Crucell, Merus is looking towards a positive future. The company has secured regular tranches of funding from charities and government bodies to continue their work in oncology and hematology and the latest success of MCLA-117 is testament to this work. The company is now very much on the radar of many in haem-onc drug development and investing and future data will be hotly anticipated.

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