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Hengrui Pharma Teams Up with Merck KGaA for Cancer Therapies

Jiangsu Hengrui Pharmaceuticals Co., Ltd (Hengrui Pharma), a globally recognized pharmaceutical company known for its commitment to scientific and technological innovation, has unveiled a groundbreaking licensing agreement with Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany. This partnership revolves around Hengrui Pharma’s cutting-edge PARP1 (poly (ADP-ribose) polymerase 1) inhibitor, HRS-1167, and includes the potential for an exclusive license for the innovative Claudin-18.2 antibody-drug conjugate (ADC) SHR-A1904.

Frank Jiang, a member of Hengrui Pharma’s board and its Chief Strategy Officer, conveyed his excitement about the collaboration, stating, “Given the high unmet need in oncology, we are excited to work closely with Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany, to bring Hengrui’s innovations to cancer patients worldwide. Partnering with Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany, on our PARP franchise is an important milestone on Hengrui’s globalization journey. We look forward to advancing our molecules rapidly through development and reaching patients in need.”

Under the terms of the agreement, Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany, will provide Hengrui Pharma with an upfront payment of €160 million. Additionally, Hengrui Pharma will receive compensation for technology transfer and an option exercise for the Claudin-18.2 ADC, potentially amounting to €90 million. Hengrui Pharma is entitled to receive royalty payments based on net sales of these products by Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany, subject to the achievement of specific development, regulatory, and commercial milestones. These potential payments could reach a total of up to €1.4 billion, with double-digit royalty rates.

Danny Bar-Zohar, Global Head of Research & Development and Chief Medical Officer for the Healthcare division of Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany, emphasized, “This partnership with Hengrui fully aligns with both our external innovation ambition and our oncology research and development strategy by diversifying our robust internal pipeline in our focus areas of DNA damage response inhibition and antibody-drug conjugates.”

Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany, will gain exclusive rights to develop, manufacture, and commercialize HRS-1167 worldwide, excluding mainland China. Furthermore, they will possess an exclusive option to develop, manufacture, and commercialize SHR-A1904 globally, excluding mainland China. They will also hold an option to co-promote HRS-1167 and SHR-A1904 within mainland China.

About HRS-1167 and SHR-A1904

HRS-1167 represents a selective, highly active, orally available PARP1 small molecule inhibitor, developed by Hengrui Pharma and safeguarded by intellectual property rights. It belongs to the second generation of PARP inhibitors and distinguishes itself with its elevated selectivity and affinity for PARP1, thereby inducing DNA trapping. Currently in its early clinical development phase (Phase 1), HRS-1167 exhibits potential for utilization as a monotherapy or as part of a combination therapy catering to a broader patient spectrum.

SHR-A1904 is an antibody drug conjugate (ADC) designed to target Claudin 18.2, developed by Hengrui Pharma, and underpinned by intellectual property rights. By binding to the target antigen on the surface of tumor cells, it enables the drug to be endocytosed by cells and subsequently releases a small-molecule toxin, resulting in the eradication of tumor cells. Presently, the product is undergoing clinical Phase 1 trials in China, the United States, and Australia. As of now, no Claudin 18.2 targeting ADC product has obtained marketing authorization.

About Hengrui Pharma

Hengrui Pharma is an innovative global pharmaceutical company dedicated to addressing unmet clinical needs through the pursuit of scientific and technological innovation. Renowned for its remarkable track record in innovation and substantial investments in research and development, Hengrui Pharma maintains a global presence. The company has established a range of technology platforms, such as its ADC platform, proteolysis targeting chimera (PROTAC), molecular gels, bi/multi-specific antibodies, and AI molecular design, which serve as the foundation for its innovative research and development endeavors. Hengrui Pharma remains committed to ongoing innovation and collaboration with global partners to benefit patients worldwide.


Joan David-Leonhard

Joan David Leonhard is a recent Pharm.D graduate with a strong passion for the pharmaceutical industry and a particular interest in pharmaceutical media and communication. Her brief internship experience includes roles in pharmacy where she built strong patient-pharmacist relationships and a pharmaceutical media internship where she actively contributed to drug information articles, blog posts, social media engagement, and various media projects.
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