News Releases

January 06, 2020
Taiho Pharmaceutical Co., Ltd.

Taiho, Astex and MSD Establish Strategic Oncology Collaboration

Taiho Pharmaceutical Co, Ltd., (“Taiho”) today announce an exclusive worldwide research collaboration and license agreement with Astex Pharmaceuticals (UK), a wholly owned subsidiary of Otsuka Pharmaceutical Co., Ltd. (“Astex”), and a subsidiary of Merck & Co., Inc., Kenilworth, NJ, USA, known as MSD outside the United States and Canada (“MSD”) focused on the development of small molecule inhibitors against several drug targets, including the KRAS oncogene, which are currently being investigated for the treatment of cancer.

“Taiho has used its unique and proprietary drug discovery platform to generate a number of small molecule inhibitors,” said Teruhiro Utsugi, Ph.D., managing director at Taiho. “This alliance builds on our KRAS research up to now, and together with MSD it allows us to combine expertise to significantly accelerate the global research, development and commercialization of a number of our mutant KRAS programs by accessing external talent and resources.”

Under the terms of the agreement, Taiho, Astex and MSD will combine preclinical candidates and their data with knowledge and expertise from their respective research programs. In exchange for providing MSD an exclusive global license to their small molecule inhibitor candidates, Taiho and Astex will receive an aggregate upfront payment of $50 million and will be eligible to receive approximately $2.5 billion contingent upon the achievement of preclinical, clinical, regulatory and sales milestones for multiple products arising from the agreement, as well as tiered royalties on sales. MSD will fund research and development and will be responsible for commercialization of products globally. Taiho has retained co-commercialization rights in Japan and an option to promote in specific areas of South East Asia.

“At MSD we continue to pursue new regimens designed to extend the benefits of highly selective therapies to more patients with cancer,” said Dr. Roger M. Perlmutter, president, MSD Research Laboratories. “This agreement with Taiho and Astex combines our respective small molecule assets and industry-leading expertise in cancer cell signaling to enable development of the most promising drug candidates.”

Harren Jhoti, Ph.D., president and CEO of Astex Pharmaceuticals (UK), commented,

“Together with our Taiho colleagues we are delighted to be working with MSD, one of the global leaders in oncology drug development, on this strategic alliance. This collaboration is another testament to Astex’s position as the leader in fragment-based drug discovery.”

KRAS is among the most frequently mutated oncogenes in human cancers. It is estimated to occur in approximately 90% of pancreatic cancers1 and 20% of non-small cell lung cancers (NSCLC)2, where they are associated with poorer outcomes.

1: Journal of Cell Science (2016) 129, 1287-1292
2: Journal of the National Comprehensive Cancer Network; Cancer Genome Atlas Research N. Nature 2014;511:543-50

About Taiho Pharmaceutical

Taiho Pharmaceutical, a subsidiary of Otsuka Holdings Co., Ltd., is an R&D-driven specialty pharma focusing on the three fields of oncology, allergy and immunology, and urology. Its corporate philosophy takes the form of a pledge: “We strive to improve human health and contribute to a society enriched by smiles.” In the field of oncology in particular, Taiho Pharmaceutical is known as a leading company in Japan for developing innovative medicines for the treatment of cancer, a reputation that is rapidly expanding through their extensive global R&D efforts. In areas other than oncology, as well, the company creates and markets quality products that effectively treat medical conditions and can help improve people's quality of life. Always putting customers first, Taiho Pharmaceutical also aims to offer consumer healthcare products that support people's efforts to lead fulfilling and rewarding lives.

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About MSD

For more than a century, MSD, a leading global biopharmaceutical company, has been inventing for life, bringing forward medicines and vaccines for many of the world’s most challenging diseases. MSD is a trade name of Merck & Co., Inc., with headquarters in Kenilworth, N.J., U.S.A. Through our prescription medicines, vaccines, biologic therapies and animal health products, we work with customers and operate in more than 140 countries to deliver innovative health solutions. We also demonstrate our commitment to increasing access to health care through far-reaching policies, programmes and partnerships. Today, MSD continues to be at the forefront of research to advance the prevention and treatment of diseases that threaten people and communities around the world - including cancer, cardio-metabolic diseases, emerging animal diseases, Alzheimer's disease and infectious diseases including HIV and Ebola.

About Astex Pharmaceuticals

Astex Pharmaceuticals (UK) is a leader in innovative drug discovery and development, committed to the fight against cancer. Astex is developing a proprietary pipeline of novel therapies and has multiple partnered products in development under collaborations with leading pharmaceutical companies. Astex is a wholly owned subsidiary of Otsuka Pharmaceutical Co. Ltd., based in Tokyo, Japan.

Otsuka Pharmaceutical Co., Ltd. is a global healthcare company with the corporate philosophy: “Otsuka - people creating new products for better health worldwide.” Otsuka researches, develops, manufactures and markets innovative and original products, with a focus on pharmaceutical products for the treatment of diseases and nutraceutical products for the maintenance of everyday health.

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For more information about Otsuka Pharmaceutical, please visit:

Information in this news release was current as of the original release date.

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