Merck, a global pharmaceutical giant, has inked a partnership with Japanese firm Daiichi Sankyo, valuing at $5.5 billion, to co-develop three advanced cancer therapies. Depending on the success of these pioneering cell-targeted treatments, the agreement could garner up to $22 billion for Daiichi.

Merck and Daiichi Sankyo forge $5.5 billion cancer drug alliance

This partnership triggered a significant positive response in the stock market, with Daiichi Sankyo’s shares soaring 14.4%, their most substantial rise in over a year. Conversely, Merck’s stocks also witnessed a 1.6% uptick during morning trade.

Daiichi Sankyo’s ambitious growth strategy projects an approximate five-fold surge in its oncology revenue, targeting at least 900 billion yen (equivalent to $6 billion) by the end of the fiscal year in March 2026. Healthcare analyst, Tina Banerjee, commented on the deal’s significance for Daiichi Sankyo, emphasizing its potential to elevate the firm’s oncology pipeline.

The collaboration aims to advance three drugs, classified as antibody drug conjugates (ADC), currently at different clinical development stages. These ADCs, unlike traditional chemotherapy, specifically target cancer cells, minimizing harm to healthy cells.

Sunao Manabe, Daiichi Sankyo’s CEO, highlighted the growing competition in ADC development, elucidating the firm’s strategic decision to collaborate with Merck. Both firms acknowledged the global commercial potential of the drug candidates, estimating multi-billion dollar revenues for each entity by mid-2030s.

The partnership stipulates joint development and potential global commercialization, except in Japan, where Daiichi retains exclusive rights. Importantly, Daiichi will manage manufacturing and supply exclusively. Financial insights reveal Merck’s $4 billion upfront payment to Daiichi, with an additional $1.5 billion spread over two years. Contingent upon reaching specific sales milestones, Merck may disburse up to $16.5 billion, equating to $5.5 billion per product.

Evan Seigerman, an analyst at BMO Capital Markets, stated that this collaboration offers Merck a strategic foothold in the ADC domain, bolstering its cancer drug portfolio, especially as patents on its top-seller, Keytruda, approach expiration. Financial ramifications for Merck include a pretax charge of $5.5 billion due to this deal, impacting its 2023 quarterly and annual results. The deal’s influence on Daiichi Sankyo’s financial outcomes will be disclosed in upcoming communications.