Caris Life Sciences’ research division, Caris Discovery, has entered a multi-year strategic collaboration with Merck KGaA (Merck) to discover new cancer targets and expedite the development of antibody-drug conjugates (ADCs) for cancer.

Merck will gain the sole worldwide global licence for developing, producing and marketing ADC therapeutics for specific targets.

Merck will make an upfront payment and provide research funding to Caris.

Caris is entitled to receive $1.4bn in potential milestone payments on meeting discovery, development, regulatory and sales-based goals, apart from sales-based tiered royalties.

Caris Discovery utilises the extensive molecular profiling capabilities of Caris for the discovery of new targets that traditional methods may miss.

Caris Discovery focuses on finding and validating new therapeutic targets for its biopharma partners to create advanced oncology treatments.

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The company will combine its ADAPT biotargeting system, a patient tissue repository, advanced AI and machine learning technologies, and a 59,000ft² discovery research laboratory.

Merck will hold an option to pursue targets discovered and validated by Caris.

Merck will execute the preclinical and clinical research and will develop and market drug candidates that emerge from these programmes.

Caris chief business officer Brian Lamon stated: “We are thrilled to join forces with Merck to discover targets with the first-in-class potential to advance the next wave of transformational ADC therapeutics.

“This partnership adds to our portfolio of external pipeline programmes and is a strong validation of our highly differentiated, orthogonal multi-omics approach to discovering truly novel targets that may be harnessed to eradicate tumours.”

In March 2023, Merck announced a €300m investment to establish a new bioprocessing production centre in Daejeon, South Korea.