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Merck KGgA Expands Neuroinflammatory Pipeline with Acquisition of Chord Therapeutics

December 21, 2021

Merck acquired Chord Therapeutics, a Swiss-based biotech company focused on rare neuroinflammatory diseases, expanding its neurology pipeline with the acquisition of the rights to develop cladribine for the treatment of two rare neurological diseases, generalized myasthenia gravis and neuromyelitis optica spectrum disorder.

Photo: Danny Bar-Zohar, head of Global Development for Merck’s biopharma business

Generalized myasthenia gravis (gMG) is a disease in which patients experience weakness in ocular, limb, and respiratory muscles and that has a significant impact on quality of life. It is estimated that 700,000 people around the world are living with gMG. Neuromyelitis optica spectrum disorder (NMOSD), also known as Devic´s disease, is an autoimmune disease, often misdiagnosed as multiple sclerosis due to similar symptoms. NMOSD is estimated to impact 200,000 people around the world.

“Cladribine has a unique mechanism of action which is relevant in antibody-mediated disease such as NMOSD and gMG. In exploratory studies, cladribine demonstrated promising results in these diseases,” said Danny Bar-Zohar, head of Global Development for Merck’s biopharma business. “These data have prompted us to initiate further development with cladribine in gMG and NMOSD to potentially bring a new therapeutic option to patients and expand our portfolio in this area.”

Cladribine selectively targets B and T cells, which are key contributors to autoimmune diseases such as NMOSD and gMG. It has been extensively studied across multiple sclerosis and oncologic disorders and has shown promising results in exploratory studies in gMG and NMOSD. Merck plans to leverage its existing capabilities to further develop an oral cladribine product tailored specifically for these indications.

Chord Therapeutics was founded in 2014 and launched in October 2020 with Series A funding by its sole investor, Omega Funds, to develop drugs for patients with rare, life-threatening and severely disabling diseases.

The deal, terms of which have not been disclosed, builds on Merck’s existing neurology portfolio in multiple sclerosis, expanding it into neuroinflammatory diseases. The transaction is expected to be closed in early 2022 after satisfactory completion of customary closing conditions.

Author: Rare Daily Staff

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