Eisai has entered a strategic collaboration with Merck to jointly develop and commercialise tyrosine kinase inhibitor drug, Lenvima, for the treatment of various types of cancer.

The alliance will see the development of the drug as a monotherapy as well as a combination treatment with Merck’s Keytruda (pembrolizumab), an anti-PD-1 therapy.

Eisai will be responsible for global Lenvima sales, while the gross profits and costs incurred during the co-development of the monotherapy will be shared equally between the two companies.

Eisai will receive an upfront payment of $300m from Merck, along with up to $650m for certain option rights through 2020 and reimbursement of $450m for research and development expenses.

Eisai is eligible to get up to $385m in certain clinical and regulatory milestone-based payments and a maximum of $3.97bn upon achieving sales milestones.

“There is strong scientific evidence supporting synergistic effects of Keytruda when used in combination with Lenvima”

Merck Research Laboratories president Dr Roger Perlmutter said: “Together with Eisai, we aim to maximise the value of Lenvima for its current indications while jointly pursuing additional approvals in combination with Keytruda across a wide range of cancers.

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“There is strong scientific evidence supporting synergistic effects of Keytruda when used in combination with Lenvima, and the companies have already received breakthrough therapy designation from the US FDA for the Keytruda/Lenvima combination in renal cell carcinoma.”

Currently, Lenvima is approved as a monotherapy for thyroid cancer, and in combination with everolimus for renal cell carcinoma (RCC) patients who have failed prior therapy.

Eisai is set to fund a Phase III clinical trial to assess Lenvima in combination with Keytruda or everolimus for treating RCC.

The collaboration will also include new clinical trials to investigate the Lenvima/Keytruda combination for 11 potential indications in six cancer types and a basket trial for several cancer types.