Merck is set to acquire German biotechnology firm Rigontec for an upfront cash payment of €115m.

Under the agreement, Merck might make additional contingent payments of up to €349m based on the attainment of certain clinical, development, regulatory and commercial milestones.

Merck research laboratories clinical oncology early stage development vice-president Dr Eric Rubin said: “Rigontec’s immuno-oncology approach of engaging the innate immune system to safely eliminate cancer cells complements our strategy and our current pipeline.

“We are eager to build upon Rigontec’s science as we continue our efforts in bringing forward meaningful advances for patients with cancer.”

Rigontec focuses on accessing the retinoic acid-inducible gene I (RIG-I) pathway, a part of the innate immune system, as a new approach in cancer immunotherapy to induce both immediate and long-term anti-tumour immunity.

"We are eager to build upon Rigontec’s science as we continue our efforts in bringing forward meaningful advances for patients with cancer."

Rigontec’s lead candidate, RGT100, is currently in its Phase I development phase to evaluate treatment options in patients with various tumours.

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Rigontec chief executive officer Dr Christian Schetter said: “We are confident that our programmes will be in the best hands and that the team at Merck will continue the work we established with our scientific founders and brought into the clinic within three years since our foundation as a company.”

The closing of the transaction is subject to certain conditions.

Merck Group is individually preparing strategic options for a potential full or partial sale of its consumer health business, in addition to the strategic partnerships.

The business focuses on consumer-centric solutions that are driven by global megatrends.

Last year, the company achieved net sales of €860m from its consumer health business.