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Merck to Expand its Oncology Division by $2.75 Billion



Merck is set to acquire VelosBio Inc. including all of VelosBio outstanding shares for the sum of $2.75 billion in cash. The deal is between Merck (MSD outside the US and Canada) and VelosBio Inc


VelosBio Inc. is a privately held clinical-stage biopharmaceutical company developing top of the line therapies in cancer. The therapies target the receptor tyrokinase-like orphan receptor 1 (ROR1). VLS-101 is VelosBio’s lead investigational candidate against ROR1, it is an antibody-drug conjugate comprising a monoclonal antibody linked to a chemotherapeutic agent Monomethyl auristatin E (MMAE) with haematologic malignancies and a Phase II clinical trial for the treatment of solid tumors.


The strategy is to improve and boost the oncology division of Merck by acquisitions that complement and strengthen the long-term growth potential and portfolio of Merck. VLS-101 in its early studies has provided notable evidence of activity in patients heavily pre-treated with refactory haematological malignancies, including mantel cell lymphoma and diffuse large B-cell lymphoma. Even though it is a novel and pioneering innovation by VelosBio.


The lead candidate in Phase I haematological cancer trial was experimented on patients who had been heavily pre-treated with other anticancer medications but they either failed to respond or had relapsed after initially responding. The findings included yield in objective clinical responses, including complete responses in 47 percent of patients with mantle cell lymphoma (MCL) and 80 percent of patients with diffuse large B-cell lymphoma.


Recently Phase II trials began to evaluate VLS-101 as a treatment for patients with solid tumors such as triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC), hormone receptor-positive and/or HER2-positive breast cancer and non-squamous non-smal-cell lung cancer (NSCLC). Another point of traction is VelosBio’s development of a preclinical pipeline of next-generation ADCs and bispecific antibodies targeting ROR1 which may have the potential to compliment VLS-101. The deal is expected to close by the end of 2020.

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