Merck (NYSE:MRK) agreed to acquire cCAM Biotherapeutics, a privately held Israeli biopharmaceutical company focused on the discovery and development of novel cancer immunotherapies, for up to $605 million.

Under terms of the agreement, Merck, through a subsidiary, will acquire all outstanding stock of cCAM in exchange for an upfront payment of $95 million in cash. In addition, cCAM shareholders of record are eligible to receive a total of up to $510 million associated with the attainment of certain clinical development, regulatory and commercial milestones. The transaction is subject to certain closing conditions.

“We continue to strengthen our portfolio of immunotherapeutic candidates through strategic collaborations and acquisitions,” said Dr. Roger M. Perlmutter, president, Merck Research Laboratories. “The acquisition of cCAM supports our objective to advance the care of patients with cancer by stimulating tumor-directed immune responses.”

The acquisition provides Merck with several early immunotherapy candidates including cCAM Biotherapeutics’ lead pipeline candidate, CM-24 – a novel monoclonal antibody (mAb) targeting the immune checkpoint protein CEACAM1 that is currently being evaluated in a Phase 1 study for the treatment of advanced or recurrent malignancies, including melanoma, non-small-cell lung, bladder, gastric, colorectal, and ovarian cancers. Based on the transaction, cCAM Biotherapeutics, domiciled in Israel, will become a wholly owned subsidiary of Merck and continue to advance the development of CM-24 in its ongoing Phase 1 clinical trial. cCam was originally established under the Israeli Office of Chief Scientist’s incubators program.

“Merck’s excellence and leadership in immuno-oncology provides a strong foundation for advancing CM-24, for the treatment of people with cancer,” said Pini Orbach, Ph.D., Chairman of the Board, cCAM Biotherapeutics and Head of Pharma at Arkin Holdings. “This is a significant achievement for cCAM Biotherapeutics, as well as a vote of confidence in the Israeli innovative biotech industry as a whole.”

CM-24 is a humanized monoclonal antibody directed against CEACAM1, an immune checkpoint protein belonging to the Human CEA (Carcino-Embryonic Antigen) protein family. Evidence has shown that CEACAM1 is expressed on tumor lymphocytes, and is up-regulated in several cancer types. Preclinical studies have shown evidence that CM-24 enhances the cytotoxic activity of tumor-infiltrating lymphocytes (TILs) against various CEACAM1-positive tumor cell lines. CM-24 is being developed for multiple oncological indications according to the expression pattern of its target protein.

cCAM is a biopharmaceutical company founded in Israel in 2010 by Dr. Tehila Ben-Moshe. The company is focused on the discovery and development of novel immunotherapies to treat cancer. Its lead product, CM-24, is a first-in-class humanized anti-CEACAM1 monoclonal antibody undergoing Phase 1 clinical trials. CM-24 is based on the research of Professor Gal Markel, Head of Research, Ella Institute of Melanoma, at Sheba Academic Medical Center Hospital, Israel. The company’s main investors are Arkin Holdings, OrbiMed and Pontifax.

Merck & Co. Inc, headquartered in Kenilworth, New Jersey, known as MSD outside of the United States and Canada, is a global healthcare leader. Through its prescription medicines, vaccines, biologic therapies and animal health products, it operates in more than 140 countries.  The company has a market capitalization of $163 billion.

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