That $95M Merck gamble to acquire cCAM? It didn’t pay off.

Roger M. Perlmutter, Merck

When Merck $MRK acquired cCAM Biotherapeutics in Israel in the summer of 2015, R&D chief Roger Perlmutter and his crew were intrigued by the potential of its lead drug, CM-24, in targeting the immune checkpoint protein CEACAM1. The drug, in Phase I, offered an opportunity for a range of cancers where the pharma giant has been closely focused.

In Perlmutter’s words, the drug hit a sweet spot for the developer of Keytruda: “stimulating tumor-directed immune responses.”

It didn’t work.

A spokesperson for the company confirmed something that is already posted to the US public clinical trials registry.

“Merck has decided to stop further clinical development of MK-6018 (CM-24). In the initial Phase 1 dose-ranging study, no efficacy signals were detected. The decision to discontinue further development is not due to any known safety risks.”

And there goes a deal completed with a $95 million upfront and $510 million in milestones that won’t get paid.

Merck typically doesn’t talk about any drug that hasn’t made it to Phase II. And it won’t be left hurting by an early-stage failure like this. A small bet failed to pay off, but Merck’s I/O effort is as big as ever.

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