EMD Serono to Collaborate with The Institute of Cancer Research, London, and Wellcome Trust to Co-Develop Anti-Cancer Drugs

  • Joint program to develop drug candidates for the treatment of different forms of cancer
  • Collaboration will be funded by EMD Serono and the Wellcome Trust

ROCKLAND, Mass.--()--EMD Serono, the biopharmaceutical division of Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany, The Institute of Cancer Research (ICR), and the Wellcome Trust, London, today announced a co-development and license agreement building on two independent research programs at both the ICR and EMD Serono to identify inhibitors of tankyrase, an enzyme of the poly (ADP-ribose) polymerase family.

The collaboration will be jointly funded by EMD Serono and the Wellcome Trust. The existing drug discovery program at the ICR is supported by a Wellcome Trust Seeding Drug Discovery Award.

In a joint effort, a team led by Dr. Chris Lord and Professor Alan Ashworth at the ICR and a research group at EMD Serono will aim to progress chemical compounds that have emerged from both organizations’ tankyrase inhibitor programs towards clinical development. At the end of the collaboration period, EMD Serono will take over full responsibility for the selected clinical development candidate, with the goal of bringing a new cancer therapeutic drug to patients.

Dr. Chris Lord, Team Leader in the Division of Breast Cancer Research at The Institute of Cancer Research, London, said: “Tankyrase inhibitors provide a unique opportunity to target one of the most common characteristics of cancer cells - their dependency on the so-called ‘Wnt signaling’ pathway. Both EMD Serono and the group at the ICR have already made notable progress in developing tankyrase inhibitors. Working with EMD Serono will allow us to jointly accelerate our program with the aim to ultimately make tankyrase inhibitors available to cancer patients.”

“We are delighted to work together with Dr. Chris Lord and Professor Alan Ashworth. With this partnership, we aim to harness the already well advanced tankyrase programs at both ICR and EMD Serono and hope to ultimately translate these into novel treatment options for cancer patients. We will build on a joint compound base of potent tankyrase inhibitors and will leverage both sites’ scientific knowledge about the ‘Wnt pathway’ that plays a major role in signal transduction for tumor growth,” said Dr. Andree Blaukat, Head of the Oncology Translational Innovation Platform at the biopharmaceutical division of Merck KGaA. “The interest of the Wellcome Trust shows its belief in our researchers’ scientific data. It also shows the importance of academia-industry collaboration models in pharmaceutical development to progress the most promising investigational compounds into clinics with the aim of bringing them to patients.”

“This agreement highlights the importance of translational funding, such as the awards provided under the Seeding Drug Discovery scheme, to reduce the risk of drug discovery programs so that they become attractive to partners who have the ability to bring a product to market,” said Dr. Ted Bianco, Director of Innovations at the Wellcome Trust. “We welcome the strategic collaboration with EMD Serono, which brings together a world-leading academic drug discovery group, and an industry partner with such a strong commitment to oncology, to give the program the best possible chances of success.”

Some of the most promising advances in cancer research have been small-molecule inhibitors which block the activity of members of the poly (ADP-ribose) polymerase (PARP) enzyme family, which includes the enzyme tankyrase.1

Under the terms of the agreement, EMD Serono will make milestone payments based on achieving regulatory and sales goals plus royalty payments on net sales of future products discovered or developed under the agreement.


1. J.L. Riffell et al, Tankyrase-targeted therapeutics: expanding opportunities in the PARP family. Nat Rev Drug Discov. 2012 Dec;11(12):923-36. doi: 10.1038/nrd3868

About EMD Serono, Inc.
EMD Serono, the biopharmaceutical division of Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany, is a specialized biopharmaceutical company dedicated to developing therapies with groundbreaking potential. The company has strong market positions in neurology, endocrinology and in reproductive health. In addition, EMD Serono has an enduring commitment to solve the unsolvable, with state-of-the-art science dedicated to developing new therapies in our core focus areas of neurology, oncology, immuno-oncology and immunology. With a long-standing history of industry expertise and a dedication to shape the future of healthcare, the company’s US footprint continues to grow, with approximately 1,000 employees around the country and fully integrated commercial, clinical and research operations in the state of Massachusetts.

For more information, please visit www.emdserono.com.

About Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany
Merck KGaA of Darmstadt, Germany, is a leading company for innovative and top-quality high-tech products in the pharmaceutical and chemical sectors. Its subsidiaries in Canada and the United States operate under the umbrella brand EMD. Around 38,000 employees work in 66 countries to improve the quality of life for patients, to further the success of customers and to help meet global challenges. The company generated total revenues of €11.1 billion in 2013 with its four divisions: Biopharmaceuticals, Consumer Health, Performance Materials and Life Science Tools. Merck KGaA of Darmstadt, Germany is the world’s oldest pharmaceutical and chemical company – since 1668, the name has stood for innovation, business success and responsible entrepreneurship. Holding an approximately 70 percent interest, the founding family remains the majority owner of the company to this day.


EMD Serono, Inc.
Cory Tromblee, 781-681-2393

Release Summary

EMD Serono, the biopharmaceutical division of Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany, The Institute of Cancer Research (ICR), and the Wellcome Trust, London, today announced a co-development


EMD Serono, Inc.
Cory Tromblee, 781-681-2393