RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK – Following up on its recent multi-billion-dollar acquisition of cancer-focused drug firm Tesaro, GlaxoSmithKline on Tuesday announced a deal worth more than $4 billion to develop an immunotherapy targeting cancer.

GSK says it will partner with Germany-based Merck KGaA on development and commercialization of M7824, also known as bintrafusp alfa, which is a potential treatment for several “difficult-to-treat” cancers, the companies said.

Tesaro, which is based in the US, also targets cancer and is involved in genetics research.

“Despite recent medical advances, many patients with difficult-to-treat cancers don’t currently benefit from immuno-oncology therapies leaving them with limited treatment options. M7824 brings together two different biological functions in a single molecule and we have observed encouraging clinical results in treating certain cancer patients, particularly those people with non-small cell lung cancer,” said Dr Hal Barron, Chief Scientific Officer and President of research and development at GSK, in the announcement. “I’m excited by the potential impact this first-in-class immunotherapy could have on the lives of cancer patients.”

GSK acquiring oncology firm Tesaro in $5.1B deal, sells health drinks for $3.7B

The compound is already involved or soon to begin across eight different studies.

GSK will pay the Gerim firm an upfront fee of more than $300 million with milestones and other payments totaling in all more than $4 billion.

How GSK defines the compound

M7824 is designed to simultaneously target two immuno-suppressive pathways, transforming growth factor-β (TGF-β) trap and an anti-programmed cell death ligand-1 (PD-L1), that are commonly used by cancer cells to evade the immune system. Bifunctional antibodies aim to increase efficacy above and beyond that achieved with individual therapies or combinations of individual therapies.1 M7824 has the potential to offer new ways to fight difficult-to-treat cancers beyond the established PD-1/PD-L1 class. In addition to use as a single agent, M7824 is also being considered for use in combination with other assets from the pipelines of both companies.

Source: GSK

Read more information about the announcement online.

GSK maintains an R&D operation in RTP and a manufacturing plant in Zebulon.

GSK to merge healthcare business with Pfizer, plans to split in two