Merck & Co Inc. (NYSE:MRK) has entered a definitive agreement for the acquisition of all outstanding shares of Pappas Capital’s portfolio firm VelosBio via a subsidiary to consider $2.75 billion. However, the closing of the deal is subject to approval under the Hart-Scott-Rodino improvement and customary adjustments.
VelosBio developing oncology therapies targeting ROR1
VelosBio is a biopharmaceutical company developing first-in-class cancer therapies targeting receptor tyrosine kinase-like Orphan receptor1 (ROR1) that is over-expressed in some cancer types. The privately held company’s lead experimental candidate is VLS-101, an antibody-drug conjugate targeting ROR1 under evaluation in Phase 1/2 clinical study. VelosBio is evaluating VLS-101 in treating patients with solid tumors and hematological malignancies.
According to Merck, the ADC has shown a manageable safety profile as well as preliminary antitumor activity indications in early clinical studies. Results from the Phase 1 clinical study of VLS-101 will be presented in the upcoming annual American Society of Haematology meeting. VLS-101 showed objective clinical responses in around 47% of mantle cell lymphoma patients and 80% of patients having diffuse large B-cell lymphoma. VelosBio indicated that some of the patients treated with VLS-101 in the Phase 1 study showed complete response after treatment.
Merck bolstering its oncology pipeline
Merck Research Laboratories’ president Roger Perlmutter said that the company continues to bolster its oncology pipeline through strategic acquisitions that complement the current portfolio and enhance long-term growth. Perlmutter said that the pioneering work of VelosBio researchers has resulted in VLS-101 with early evidence showing that the ADC offers significant benefit for heavily pre-treated patients having refractory malignancies that include MCL and DLBCL.
Recently the company initiated a Phase 2 clinical study evaluating VLS01-1 in the treatment of solid tumors. These include patients with hormone receptor-positive and HER-positive breast cancer, triple-negative breast cancer, and also non-squamous non-small cell lung cancer. VLS-101 had shown in early clinical trials, a favorable safety profile and signs of antitumor activity. VelosBio is also developing a preclinical pipeline of next-generation ADCs and bispecific antibodies that target ROR1.