Merck bags chance to test ADCs based on Starpharma delivery tech

Merck has tightened its ties to Starpharma as it continues to build out its antibody-drug conjugate (ADC) capabilities, signing a second agreement that will enable it to evaluate candidates based on a dendrimer drug delivery platform.

Last year, Merck struck a deal to perform a preclinical evaluation of dendrimer-based ADCs made using Starpharma’s DEP delivery technology. The deal cleared Merck to take a close look at the fruits of a drug delivery platform that is designed to yield ADCs with greater homogeneity, site specific attachment and higher drug-antibody ratios than conventional candidates.

Eighteen months later, Merck has entered into a second deal that will enable it to test and characterize “a number” of DEP dendrimer conjugates designed and synthesized by Starpharma. 

“We are very pleased to add this new DEP ADC program with MSD and to continue building on our partnership with them in such an innovative and valuable area. This new DEP program underlines the potential clinical and commercial value our DEP technology can deliver,” Starpharma CEO Jackie Fairley said in a statement.

The deal, which has an initial duration of 12 months, has the same terms as the previous agreement. Merck will fund the research, although Starpharma doesn’t expect the fees to be material, and each party will keep hold of their own background intellectual property.

Starpharma has previously formed agreements with companies including AstraZeneca and contributed its technology to four clinical-stage oncology candidates. Interest in the drug delivery technology is built on evidence dendrimers can aim treatments at organs, tissues or molecular receptors and realize other benefits.