Merck has entered a development agreement with US-based SFJ Pharmaceuticals Group to develop its investigational drug abituzumab for the treatment of metastatic colorectal cancer (mCRC).
The agreement reflects Merck’s strategic approach to collaborations, identifying those opportunities that can progress the company’s clinical stage assets through novel innovation models.
SFJ will sponsor a Phase II/III clinical trial to evaluate abituzumab in combination with Erbitux and chemotherapy in a first-line setting for high ανβ6-expressing patients with RAS wild‑type left‑sided mCRC.
SFJ CEO Robert DeBenedetto said: “Our expertise in oncology and renowned ability to successfully carry out various late stage clinical development projects is gaining wider acceptance and enables industry players like Merck to develop their promising assets by risk-sharing with us.”
Merck has already completed Phase II trials of the drug in combination with Erbitux and chemotherapy in a second line all-comer population of KRAS wild-type mCRC patients.
During the trial, a subgroup of patients with overexpression of integrin αvβ6 were identified as potentially benefiting from the combination therapy.
Merck executive board member and healthcare CEO Belén Garijo said: “Our collaboration with SFJ illustrates Merck’s increasing focus on strategic partnering in order to further diversify our development risks as well as enable a more efficient pipeline prioritisation.
“Together with SFJ, we aim to progress the understanding of the potential of abituzumab as a targeted treatment for patients suffering from mCRC.”