Less than eight months after nabbing a 50% share of hot AstraZeneca drug Lynparza, Merck is back with another partnership—this time on Eisai’s Lenvima.
Wednesday, the two companies said they’d inked a collaboration pact on the tyrosine kinase inhibitor that could bring Eisai up to $5.76 billion. In return, Merck will reap half of Lenvima’s sales, both as a monotherapy and in tandem with its own cancer drug, Keytruda.
Of course, how much Eisai eventually walks away with will depend on how Lenvima fares, sales-wise. Merck will hand over $300 million up front and up to $650 million more for certain rights, along with $450 million in R&D reimbursement. $385 million more will hang on whether the partners can hit certain clinical and regulatory targets. But the rest—up to $3.97 billion—will depend on whether the partners hit their sales marks.
Merck was already plenty familiar with the potential of Lenvima before striking the deal. In January, the Lenvima-Keytruda combo snagged the FDA’s “breakthrough” designation in kidney cancer based on positive phase 1b/2 data that dropped last year.
Now, though, that combo will head into a host of new clinical trials, with the new partners plotting 11 potential indications across endometrial cancer, non-small cell lung cancer, hepatocellular carcinoma, head and neck cancer, bladder cancer and melanoma.
Eisai entered the collaboration “aiming to maximize the potential of Lenvima and expedite the creation of innovative treatments in this age of ‘Cancer Evolution,’” Eisai CEO Haruo Naito said in a statement.
For Merck, it’s the second blockbuster cancer deal its pulled off since July, when it teamed up with PARP drugmaker AstraZeneca on an $8.5 billion collaboration for Lynparza. And as Evercore ISI analyst Umer Raffat pointed out in a Wednesday note to clients, “there is an interesting dynamic playing out among the two lead players in immuno-oncology.”
Bristol-Myers Squibb “has continued to progress the most IO-IO combos into phase 3,” he noted, and meanwhile, “Merck has been extremely focused on flawless trial execution with IO-chemo and has added two important small molecule combinations to its portfolio via partnerships.”