Merck, known as MSD outside the US and Canada, has signed a licensing agreement with AiCuris to develop and commercialise investigational candidates targeting human cytomegalovirus (HCMV).

The AiCuris’ HCMV portfolio includes an oral, late-stage antiviral candidate, letermovir (AIC246), which is being investigated for the treatment and prevention of HCMV infection in transplant patients.

Merck Research Laboratories Infectious Disease Franchise head and worldwide licensing and knowledge management senior vice president Dr Roger Pomerantz said HCMV infection is one of the common viral infections affecting organ and bone marrow transplant patients.

"AiCuris has built a leading portfolio of innovative antiviral HCMV candidates that are designed to address novel targets and offer the potential for HCMV prophylaxis. This portfolio complements Merck’s broad antiviral portfolio," Pomerantz said.

As a part of the agreement, Merck, through a subsidiary, will receive worldwide development and commercialisation rights of candidates in AiCuris’ HCMV portfolio, besides being responsible for all development activities and related costs.

"HCMV infection is one of the common viral infections affecting organ and bone marrow transplant patients." 

Merck will make €110m upfront payment to AiCuris, which is also eligible to receive milestone payments of up to €332.5m upon the achievement of development, regulatory and commercialisation objectives for HCMV candidates, such as letermovir, in addition to other Phase I candidates that proceed through an alternate mechanism.

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AiCuris is further entitled to receive royalty payments on reaching advanced stage of the clinical programme of potential products resulting from the collaboration.

AiCuris CEO Dr Helga Rubsamen-Schaeff said; "Merck’s ongoing commitment to infectious disease research, combined with its experience in developing and marketing antiviral products, makes them an excellent partner for AiCuris’ unique HCMV portfolio."

The transaction is subject to clearance from the relevant authorities.