Merck has entered into an agreement to acquire IOmet Pharma, a UK-based small-molecule drug developer focused on cancer immunotherapy and cancer metabolism, for an undisclosed price.

Following completion of the transaction, IOmet will become a wholly owned subsidiary of Merck strengthening its oncology pre-clinical pipeline.

The acquisition will include IOmet’s pre-clinical pipeline of IDO (indoleamine-2,3-dioxygenase 1), TDO (tryptophan-2,3-dioxygenase), and dual-acting IDO / TDO inhibitors.

Merck Research Laboratories oncology early-stage development therapeutic area head and vice-president Eric Rubin said: "By harnessing the power of the immune system, we are already witnessing great advancements in the treatment of cancer.

"By harnessing the power of the immune system, we are already witnessing great advancements in the treatment of cancer."

"The acquisition of IOmet is a further example of Merck’s commitment to fully realising the potential of this rapidly evolving field through our existing innovative portfolio, as well as the acquisition of promising immunotherapeutic candidates."

IOmet noted that both preclinical evidence and emerging clinical data suggest that inhibition of IDO and / or TDO may help overcome resistance to existing clinical immunotherapies.

In November last year, the company presented preclinical data involving IDO1, TDO and IDO1 / TDO Dual Inhibitor programmes at the Society for Immunotherapy of Cancer Annual Meeting.

IOmet CEO Alan Wise said: "Merck’s leadership in immuno-oncology and expertise in development combined with the potential of our IDO1 and TDO programmes creates significant opportunity for us to advance the treatment of cancer.

"As a company we have benefited from proximity to world class life sciences research including the University of Dundee, an early stage collaborator with us on the IDO1 and TDO programmes and from supportive shareholders including the Scottish Investment Bank.

"We now look forward to joining Merck and feel that this acquisition underscores the shared commitment we have to accelerating our programmes to bring solutions to people who need them most."

IDO1 and TDO are the rate-limiting enzymes in the pathway that metabolises the essential amino acid tryptophan.

They have emerged as key targets for the pharmaceutical industry in the cancer immunotherapy field.