Taiho and Astex Extend Strategic Oncology Collaboration with MSD Granting Exclusive License to SHP2 Program

TOKYO, Japan; 13 January, 2021

Taiho Pharmaceutical Co, Ltd., (hereinafter Taiho) announces that it and Astex Pharmaceuticals (UK), (hereinafter Astex), both Otsuka group companies, have granted an exclusive license under their joint, small-molecule drug discovery program targeting SHP2 to Merck & Co., Inc., Kenilworth, NJ, USA, known as MSD outside the United States and Canada (hereinafter MSD) through a subsidiary. 

An option for MSD to acquire the exclusive license to the Astex-Taiho SHP2 program was included as part of the strategic oncology collaboration between MSD, Astex and Taiho, announced in January 2020. The collaboration focuses on the discovery and development of small molecule inhibitors against several drug targets, including the KRAS oncogene, which are currently being investigated for the treatment of cancer. 

SHP2, a dephosphorylating enzyme, is a signaling molecule which regulates various cellular processes including cell proliferation and differentiation, and acts as a regulator in the activation of the RAS signaling pathway such as KRAS.*1

“We are delighted to have extended the breadth of our strategic oncology collaboration with MSD to encompass assets from the joint Astex-Taiho SHP2 program”, said Teruhiro Utsugi, Ph.D., managing director at Taiho.  “This will allow for a number of important drug-drug combinations to be explored as potential new treatment modalities for patients.”   

In exchange for providing MSD with an exclusive global license to their small molecule SHP2 inhibitor candidates, Taiho and Astex will receive an option-exercise fee payment and will be eligible to receive further undisclosed payments contingent upon the achievement of clinical, regulatory and sales milestones for SHP2 products, as well as tiered royalties on sales. MSD will be solely responsible for funding all further research and development and will be responsible for commercialization of SHP2 products globally. Taiho has retained co-commercialization rights in Japan and an option to promote SHP2 products in specific areas of Southeast Asia.

“We are pleased with the discovery research progress and collaboration with Taiho and Astex as we seek to develop new small molecule candidates for the treatment of cancer,” said Nick Haining, vice president, Discovery Oncology and Immunology, MSD Research Laboratories. “We look forward to working more extensively with Taiho and Astex on the SHP2 pathway and accelerating this promising research which has the potential to impact a number of cancer types.” 

Harren Jhoti, Ph.D., president and CEO of Astex Pharmaceuticals (UK), commented,

“Together with our Taiho colleagues, we are delighted to extend our strategic alliance with MSD to include assets from our joint SHP2 program that have been generated using our leading fragment-based drug discovery approach.”

*1: https://www.aacr.org/blog/2019/10/30/molecular-targets-and-cancer-therapeutics-conference-moves-targeting-kras-to-the-fore/

About Taiho Pharmaceutical

Taiho Pharmaceutical, a subsidiary of Otsuka Holdings Co., Ltd., is an R&D-driven specialty pharma focusing on the fields of oncology, allergy and immunology, and urology. Its corporate philosophy takes the form of a pledge: “We strive to improve human health and contribute to a society enriched by smiles.” In the field of oncology in particular, Taiho Pharmaceutical is known as a leading company in Japan for developing innovative medicines for the treatment of cancer, a reputation that is rapidly expanding through their extensive global R&D efforts. In areas other than oncology, as well, the company creates and markets quality products that effectively treat medical conditions and can help improve people's quality of life. Always putting customers first, Taiho Pharmaceutical also aims to offer consumer healthcare products that support people's efforts to lead fulfilling and rewarding lives.

For more information about Taiho Pharmaceutical, please visit: https://www.taiho.co.jp/en/.

About Astex Pharmaceuticals

Astex Pharmaceuticals (UK) is a leader in innovative drug discovery and development, committed to the fight against cancer. Astex is developing a proprietary pipeline of novel therapies and has multiple partnered products in development under collaborations with leading pharmaceutical companies. Astex is a wholly owned subsidiary of Otsuka Pharmaceutical Co. Ltd., based in Tokyo, Japan.

For more information about Astex Pharmaceuticals, please visit: http://www.astx.com

About Otsuka Pharmaceutical

Otsuka Pharmaceutical Co., Ltd. is a global healthcare company with the corporate philosophy:

“Otsuka - people creating new products for better health worldwide.” Otsuka researches, develops, manufactures and markets innovative and original products, with a focus on pharmaceutical products for the treatment of diseases and nutraceutical products for the maintenance of everyday health.

For more information about Otsuka Pharmaceutical, please visit: https://www.otsuka.co.jp/en/

Media enquiries (for Astex Pharmaceuticals)

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