Biotechnology, Business, Drug Development

It’s not easy being 5th: Pfizer and Merck KGaA blueprint a new attack on ovarian cancer

In the rapid proliferation of checkpoint inhibitor studies, it’s not so easy coming up with novel trial designs. But Pfizer and Merck KGaA laid claim to an original twist this morning, announcing plans to start a Phase III study of their checkpoint drug avelumab with platinum-based chemo.

That matchup hasn’t been tried before as a first-line treatment.

Ovarian cancer is just one of the 15 tumor types the partners are tackling currently with avelumab. Pfizer paid $850 million upfront to gain collaboration rights with Merck KGaA, looking to follow up on its success in oncology with the recent approval of palbociclib.

Virgin territory is harder and harder to come by here. Bristol-Myers Squibb has put in an enormous effort to make its Opdivo a leader in the field. And Merck’s Ken Frazier recently noted that the company will spend $2 billion this year alone on its checkpoint R&D effort, following the approval of Keytruda. Roche is now on the market, with multiple programs in the clinic. AstraZeneca is still shooting for 4th place. And that has Pfizer and Merck KGaA at the end of the line.

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