Merck buys into Orion prostate cancer therapy in $290M deal

Kenilworth-based Merck on Wednesday said it will pay $290 million upfront to Orion Corp. as part of an agreement to develop and market Orion’s prostate cancer treatment, ODM-208.

Further financial terms have not been disclosed.

ODM-208 is an oral treatment currently being evaluated in a Phase 2 clinical trial. It targets an enzyme called cytochrome P450 11A1 (CYP11A1) that is central to the production of steroids in the body from cholesterol, including androgens that can stimulate the growth of prostate cancer.

If the option is exercised, Merck would pay all development and commercialization expenses associated with the program, and Orion could receive milestone payments and royalties on sales.

“Targeting CYP11A1 provides a compelling approach to suppressing the production of steroid hormones, a key driver of prostate cancer,” Dr. Dean Y. Li, president, Merck Research Laboratories, stated. “We believe ODM-208 has the potential to complement our existing program in prostate cancer and look forward to working with the team at Orion.”

“We are delighted to enter this collaboration with Merck, which is committed to extend and improve the lives of patients with cancer and has a strong commercial presence globally,” Timo Lappalainen, CEO and president, Orion, said. “This agreement positions Orion to harness the potential of ODM-208 for the good of patients while continuing to invest in our other programs without compromising our financial targets.”