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Merck acquires U of Newcastle start-up for $502M in one of Australia’s biggest biotech transactions


By Jesse Schwartz
Published: February 28th, 2018

A start-up from the University of Newcastle (UON) has been acquired by leading pharmaceutical firm Merck for $502 million, one of the biggest biotech transaction in Australian history.

Viralytics is based on the work of UON associate professor Darren Shafren and his team, who developed an experimental immunotherapy technology that uses a form of common cold virus to infect and kill cancer cells. Viralytics’ product CAVATAK is currently undergoing multiple Phase I and Phase II clinical trials.

Kevin Hall, senior deputy vice-chancellor of research and innovation at UON, comments on the acquisition by Merck: “An achievement of this magnitude demonstrates that this is a region that is capable of developing a start-up business to a global scale.”

The Hunter Medical Research Institute (HMRI), along with UON’s tech transfer arm Newcastle Innovation, provided early funding for Viralytics.

“Game-changing advances like this emerge quite suddenly in the health sphere when you provide the right research foundations combined with the support of donors,” says Michael Nilsson, director of HMRI. “Our model of translational research aims to clear the way for innovative therapies like this to be developed efficiently and affordably.”

“Under this acquisition,” says associate professor Sharfren, “Merck have committed to build on the science behind CAVATAK developed through trials in melanoma, lung and bladder cancers. I am eager to see that progress and ultimately to see positive outcomes for cancer patients worldwide.”

Source: The University of Newcastle, Australia

Posted under: Tech Transfer e-News

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