Merck’s Keytruda: MRC Technology had Traded Future Earnings from Drug Royalties for a Payout to be used in R&D Reinvestment
Reporter: Aviva Lev-Ari, PhD, RN
MRCT offloads Keytruda royalty rights to DRI, raising $150M for new research
MRC Technology has cashed in on one of its big successes, the Merck ($MRK) PD-1 immunotherapy Keytruda. The U.K. nonprofit, which humanized the antibody back in 2006, sold a slice of its rights to future royalties to DRI Capital, resulting in a $150 million (€135 million) windfall the organization will funnel into new research projects, Reuters reports.
The deal sees MRCT trade some of the drip feed of earnings it was likely to generate for its role in the Keytruda story for an immediate payout. MRCT and the organization on the other side of the deal, investment group DRI, have agreed the rights to those future royalties are today worth $150 million. The plan is for MRCT to put that money back into research, allowing it to up its activities today rather than wait for the cash to land in its coffers over the years ahead.
MRCT secured the rights to royalties from Keytruda in 2006, at which time Dutch biotech Organon was developing the antibody. Organon turned to MRCT for help with humanizing the antibody, a task to which MRCT applied technology developed by Sir Greg Winter and his team at the Medical Research Council. In return, Organon agreed to pay milestones and what MRCT has described as “small” royalties. Partway through MRCT’s work on the antibody, Organon was bought by Schering Plough for $14.4 billion. Then, in 2009, Merck bought Schering Plough for $41.1 billion.
UK charity pockets $150 million from Merck cancer immunotherapy drug
British medical charity MRC Technology has pocketed $150 million by selling part of its royalty interest in Merck & Co’s successful cancer drug Keytruda, allowing it to plough fresh funds into new research.
The charity said on Friday that a private equity fund managed by DRI Capital had acquired a portion of its royalty entitlement on the worldwide sales of the medicine.
Keytruda is one of a promising class of new treatments that stimulate the body’s immune system to fight cancer. It is an antibody-based medicine and was “humanized” by scientists at MRC Technology.