Merck to acquire US biopharma company VelosBio to strengthen oncology pipeline

Merck acquisition of VelosBio : US pharma giant Merck has agreed to acquire VelosBio, a California-based clinical-stage biopharma company, for $2.75 billion in an all-cash deal, in a move to strengthen its oncology pipeline.

VelosBio is engaged in developing cancer therapies that target receptor tyrosine kinase-like orphan receptor 1 (ROR1).

The company’s lead investigational candidate – VLS-101, an antibody-drug conjugate (ADC), targets ROR1.

Presently, VLS-101 is being assessed in a phase 1 and a phase 2 clinical trial for the treatment of hematologic malignancies and solid tumors, respectively.

Commenting on Merck acquisition of VelosBio, Dr. Roger M. Perlmutter – president of Merck Research Laboratories said: “At Merck, we continue to bolster our growing oncology pipeline with strategic acquisitions that both complement our current portfolio and strengthen our long-term growth potential.

“Pioneering work by VelosBio scientists has yielded VLS-101, which in early studies has provided notable evidence of activity in heavily pretreated patients with refractory hematological malignancies, including mantel cell lymphoma and diffuse large B-cell lymphoma.”

Last month, VelosBio began a phase 2 clinical trial for assessing VLS-101 for the treatment of patients having solid tumors, including those with triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC), non-squamous non-small-cell lung cancer (NSCLC), and hormone receptor-positive and/or HER2-positive breast cancer.

VLS-101, in early clinical trials, showed a manageable safety profile and early signs of anti-tumor activity.

Dave Johnson – founder and CEO of VelosBio, commenting on Merck acquisition of VelosBio, said: “Merck is a recognized leader in oncology, and this acquisition reflects the hard work and commitment of all the employees at VelosBio in advancing the science of ROR1.

“We are very pleased that Merck has recognized the value of our first-in-class ROR1-directed investigational therapeutics. As part of Merck’s oncology pipeline, our lead product candidate, VLS-101, is now well positioned to achieve its maximum potential to benefit appropriate cancer patients in need.”

Merck acquisition of VelosBio, which is subject to approval under the Hart-Scott-Rodino Antitrust Improvements Act and meeting of other customary conditions, is expected to be closed by the year-end.

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