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Caris Life Sciences, Merck KGaA Strike Cancer Drug Discovery Partnership

NEW YORK – Caris Life Sciences said on Thursday that Caris Discovery, its therapeutic research arm, has entered into a partnership with Germany's Merck KGaA to accelerate the development of first-in-class antibody-drug conjugates (ADCs) for cancer patients.

The multi-year deal could be worth as much as $1.4 billion to Caris, with Merck providing an undisclosed upfront payment and research funding, followed by potential discovery, development, regulatory, and sales-based milestone payments as well as tiered royalties.

Under the partnership, Caris Discovery will discover and validate targets by combining the firm's proprietary ADAPT Biotargeting platform, its patient tissue repository, sequencing-based molecular profiling, and AI and machine learning capabilities. Merck KGaA can pursue any of the validated targets and will be responsible for preclinical and clinical research, and the development and commercialization of drug candidates. Merck will also receive an exclusive global license to develop, manufacture, and commercialize ADC therapeutics for selected targets.

"We are dedicated to addressing high unmet needs across multiple cancer types," Paul Lyne, global head of the research unit oncology of Merck KGaA's healthcare business, operating as EMD Serono in the US and Canada, said in a statement. "Through close collaboration with Caris, utilizing their unique discovery platform, we complement our internal ADC capabilities to develop novel first-in-class ADCs and ultimately strengthen our potential to expand our oncology portfolio."