Merck inks Keytruda deal with Surface Oncology; Rocket Pharmaceuticals gets expedited review of gene therapy for rare pediatric disease

The pharma took the wraps off a collaboration deal on Tuesday to pair Keytruda with Surface Oncology’s IL-27 targeting antibody SRF388. The combo will be studied as a component of Surface’s Phase I study for SRF388 in patients with solid tumors, specifically those with liver and kidney cancer.

Surface has identified specific tumor types in which it believes IL-27 plays a role in resistance to checkpoint inhibitors. The company says it got the initial Phase I results it was looking for back in November, and is now headed into the expansion stage of the study. The initial results are expected to be read out in the first half of this year.

“Surface is the only company with clinical-stage IL-27 research and we believe that this cytokine may play an important role in resistance to anti-PD-1 treatment,” Rob Ross, incoming Surface CEO, said in a statement.

Keytruda, which raked in $14.4 billion in net sales last year, has racked up a variety of indications from melanoma to cervical cancer. But earlier this month, Merck withdrew its marketing approval for the PD-1 inhibitor in metastatic small cell lung cancer as part of an “industry-wide evaluation” by the FDA of drugs that do not meet the post-marketing checkpoints on which their accelerated nods were based. — Nicole DeFeudis



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