SAN DIEGO--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Artiva Biotherapeutics, Inc., an oncology company focused on developing and commercializing primary allogeneic natural killer (NK) cell therapies to treat cancer, announced today that it has entered into an exclusive worldwide collaboration and license agreement with Merck, known as MSD outside the United States and Canada, to develop novel chimeric antigen receptor (CAR)-NK cell therapies targeting solid tumor-associated antigens. The collaboration will leverage Artiva’s off-the-shelf allogeneic NK cell manufacturing platform, along with its proprietary CAR-NK technology. The collaboration initially includes two CAR-NK programs with an option for a third, none of which are in Artiva’s current or planned pipeline. The agreement provides that Artiva will develop the CAR-NK programs through the first GMP manufacturing campaign and IND preparation, followed by transfer to Merck for clinical and commercial development.
Under the terms of the agreement, Artiva will receive a $30 million upfront payment for the first two programs and an additional $15 million payment if Merck exercises its option for a third program. Artiva is also eligible to receive future development and commercial milestones of up to $612 million per program and royalties are payable by Merck on worldwide sales of any product derived from the collaboration. Merck agreed to provide research funding to Artiva for each of the programs under the collaboration.
“Our NK platform has been developed to be truly off-the-shelf and we believe it will be further validated by this exclusive collaboration with Merck, as we work together to bring cell therapies to all patients who may benefit,” said Dr. Peter Flynn, COO of Artiva. “This collaboration will combine Merck’s leading immuno-oncology expertise and capabilities with our highly scaled and optimized CAR-NK platform,” added Dr. Fred Aslan, CEO of Artiva.
“At Merck, we continue to explore new ways to transform the most innovative science into better therapies for patients who need them most,” said Dr. Nick Haining, Vice President, Head of Discovery Oncology and Immunology, Merck Research Laboratories. “We look forward to working with the team at Artiva with the hope of developing new NK cell-based treatments for cancer.”
Artiva’s targeted NK cell therapies leverage the innate anti-tumor biology and safety features of NK cells. The therapies are optimized for enhanced efficacy through CARs, therapeutic antibody combination therapy, and genetic engineering. The Merck CAR-NK collaboration programs will leverage Artiva’s novel NK-specific CAR costimulatory structures and highly scaled, proprietary NK cell manufacturing platform. Artiva’s manufacturing platform supports large-scale production and cryopreservation of off-the-shelf allogeneic NK cell therapies and proprietary CAR-NK and NK-specific gene-editing technologies to augment therapeutic activity.
About Artiva Biotherapeutics: Scaling NK Cell Therapy for Cancer
Artiva’s mission is to deliver to cancer patients highly effective cellular immunotherapies that are safe and immediately accessible. Artiva’s internal CAR-NK programs include AB-201, a novel HER2-specific CAR-NK cell therapy for the treatment of HER2+ solid tumors, and AB-202, a CD19-specific CAR-NK cell therapy for the treatment of B-cell malignancies, which is being developed under Artiva’s master license and option agreement with GC LabCell Corporation, with plans to enter clinical trials in 2022. Artiva’s pipeline also includes AB-101, a universal NK cell therapy for use in combination with monoclonal antibodies or innate-cell engagers. The company is currently advancing a clinical trial of AB-101 in combination with rituximab for the treatment of relapsed or refractory B-cell lymphomas. Artiva’s NK cell platform incorporates cell expansion, activation, and engineering technology developed by the company’s corporate partner, GC LabCell, a member of the GC family of companies, one of the Republic of Korea’s leading biopharmaceutical groups. Artiva is headquartered in San Diego. For more info, please visit www.artivabio.com.