Mersana Therapeutics and Merck to develop novel ADCs


Mersana Therapeutics, Inc. has announced a research collaboration and commercial license agreement with a subsidiary of Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany to discover novel Immunosynthen antibody drug conjugates (ADCs) directed against up to two targets.

Immunosynthen, Mersana Therapeutics’ proprietary STING-agonist ADC platform, is designed to generate systemically administered ADCs that locally activate STING signaling in both ​tumor-resident immune cells and in antigen-expressing tumor cells, unlocking the anti-tumor potential of innate immune stimulation.​ 

“Building on our deep expertise in the ADC space, we are focused on the discovery of next-generation state-of-the-art ADC drugs,” said Paul Lyne, head of research unit, oncology, Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany. 

“An approach that can directly target the tumor microenvironment with an immunomodulatory ADC has the potential to bring the benefits of this immunotherapy to a broader group of patients. This collaboration with Mersana to design novel immunostimulatory ADCs that can harness the potential of the STING pathway is an ideal complement to our innovation in this area.” 

The STING pathway is a fundamental means of generating innate immune responses that can lead to anti-tumor activity and immunological memory. Mersana Therapeutics has generated preclinical data demonstrating Immunosynthen’s ability to enable highly targeted STING activation within both tumor cells and tumor-resident myeloid cells while avoiding unwanted systemic effects. 

Mersana Therapeutics’ increasing role

“We are pleased to be partnering with Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany in a collaboration designed to extend the reach of our Immunosynthen platform and bring novel new product candidates forward with the potential to benefit patients,” said Anna Protopapas, president and chief executive officer of Mersana Therapeutics. 

“With three significant new collaborations signed in 2022 alone, we are demonstrating Mersana’s increasing role as a partner of choice within the ADC field.” 

Under the terms of the agreement, Mersana Therapeutics will develop novel ADC product candidates against up to two targets utilizing its Immunosynthen platform to conjugate proprietary antibodies from Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany.

Mersana Therapeutics will be responsible for certain discovery activities, as well as limited preclinical manufacturing and supply obligations, which will be reimbursed by Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany. Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany will be solely responsible for in vitro and in vivocharacterization, other preclinical work, and all clinical development and potential commercialization activities relating to any resulting product candidates.  

Mersana Therapeutics will receive an upfront payment of $30 million. Mersana Therapeutics is also eligible to receive reimbursement of certain costs, up to $800 million in potential regulatory, development and commercial milestone payments, and tiered royalties up to the low double-digit percentages on worldwide net sales of any approved ADCs developed under the agreement.  

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