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Biotech / Medical : Cardiome -- CRME
CRME 2.330-2.1%May 16 5:00 PM EST

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From: Ian@SI4/8/2009 8:18:50 PM
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Merck & Co., Inc. and Cardiome Sign License Agreement for Vernakalant, an Investigational Drug for Treatment of Atrial Fibrillation

WHITEHOUSE STATION, NJ and VANCOUVER, April 8 /CNW/ - Merck & Co., Inc. and Cardiome Pharma Corp. (NASDAQ: CRME / TSX: COM) today announced a collaboration and license agreement for the development and commercialization of vernakalant, an investigational candidate for the treatment of atrial fibrillation. The agreement provides Merck with exclusive global rights to the oral formulation of vernakalant (vernakalant (oral)) for the maintenance of normal heart rhythm in patients with atrial fibrillation, and provides a Merck affiliate, Merck Sharp & Dohme (Switzerland) GmbH, with exclusive rights outside of the United States, Canada and Mexico to the intravenous (IV) formulation of vernakalant (vernakalant (IV)) for rapid conversion of acute atrial fibrillation to normal heart rhythm.

"This agreement underscores Merck's ongoing commitment to the research and development of new cardiovascular drugs," said Luciano Rossetti M.D., senior vice president and franchise head, Atherosclerosis and Cardiovascular, Merck Research Laboratories. "Vernakalant is an important addition to our broad portfolio of products and candidates that target multiple aspects of heart disease."

"Given Merck's long-established leadership in the cardiovascular space, we believe there is no company better suited to advance vernakalant," said Bob Rieder, chairman and chief executive officer of Cardiome. "This collaboration places Cardiome in a strong financial position as we conclude our strategic review, and moves the Company closer to providing doctors with an important tool to address this critical unmet medical need."

Under terms of the agreement, Merck will pay Cardiome an initial fee of US$60 million. In addition, Cardiome is eligible to receive up to US$200 million in payments based on achievement of certain milestones associated with the development and approval of vernakalant products (including a total of US$35 million for initiation of a planned Phase III program for vernakalant (oral) and submission for regulatory approval in Europe of vernakalant (IV)), and up to US$100 million for milestones associated with approvals in other subsequent indications of both the intravenous and oral formulations. Also, Cardiome will receive tiered royalty payments on sales of any approved products and has the potential to receive up to US$340 million in milestone payments based on achievement of significant sales thresholds.

Cardiome has retained an option to co-promote vernakalant (oral) with Merck through a hospital-based sales force in the United States. Merck will be responsible for all future costs associated with the development, manufacturing and commercialization of these candidates. Merck has granted Cardiome a secured, interest-bearing credit facility of up to US$100 million that Cardiome may access in tranches over several years commencing in 2010.

Vernakalant (IV) is an investigational candidate being evaluated for its ability to terminate an atrial fibrillation episode and return the heart to normal rhythm. Cardiome's co-development partner in North America, Astellas Pharma U.S., Inc., submitted a New Drug Application with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for KYNAPID(TM) (vernakalant hydrochloride) Injection in December 2006 that included results from two pivotal Phase III clinical trials. In December 2007, the Cardiovascular and Renal Drugs Advisory Committee recommended that the FDA approve vernakalant (IV) for rapid conversion of atrial fibrillation. In August 2008, the FDA issued an Approvable action letter requesting additional information.

Vernakalant (oral) is being evaluated as an oral maintenance therapy for the long-term prevention of atrial fibrillation recurrence. A Phase IIb double-blind, placebo-controlled, randomized, dose-ranging clinical trial in patients at risk of recurrent atrial fibrillation showed that at the 500 mg dose, vernakalant (oral) significantly reduced the rate of atrial fibrillation relapse as compared to placebo.

The effectiveness of the collaboration agreement is subject to the expiration or earlier termination of the waiting period under the Hart-Scott-Rodino Antitrust Improvements Act, if applicable, as well as other customary closing conditions. The agreement between Cardiome and Astellas Pharma U.S., Inc. for vernakalant (IV) in the United States, Canada and Mexico is unaffected by this agreement.

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