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Merck KGaA Grants License To Vertex For Two DNA Damage Response Inhibitors

Merck KGaA (MKGAY.PK) said that it has entered into an exclusive licensing agreement with Vertex Pharmaceuticals Inc. (VRTX), for two DNA-dependent protein kinase (DNA-PK) inhibitors - M9831 (formerly known as VX-984) and an additional pre-clinical compound - in the field of gene editing for six specific genetic disease indications.

Merck KGaA said it will receive an upfront payment in addition to milestones and royalties on future net sales and retains the rights to both assets in all other disease areas, including oncology, with the ability to develop both these compounds in-house, or to license them to future partners in the gene editing field.

Vertex has the option to add indications to the license grant. Both molecules were acquired in a licensing agreement from Vertex in 2017, and are part of the company's broad portfolio of DNA Damage Response (DDR) inhibitors.

Merck KGaA is investing significant resources into the promising area of DDR, and has considerable expertise and experience in developing DDR molecules, with the objective of becoming one of the leading players in this therapeutic area.

The company is currently investigating four DDR molecules, including two ATR inhibitors, an ATM inhibitor and an investigational small-molecule of DNA-PK. DNA-PK is a key enzyme that could potentially enhance the efficacy of many commonly used DNA-damaging agents such as radiotherapy and chemotherapy.

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