Lycera, Merck team up again to fight autoimmune diseases

Lycera Corp., an Ann Arbor, Michigan-based biopharmaceutical company, recently announced a partnership with the New Jersey-based pharmaceutical company Merck & Co., Inc., to develop small molecules against undisclosed targets for autoimmune diseases.

Under the terms of the deal, Lycera will receive an undisclosed upfront payment and the company will be eligible to receive more than $300 million in research milestones, in addition to royalties and additional sales milestones. Merck will be responsible for clinically developing the product and will retain worldwide rights to products that result from the deal, reports.

The deal is the second between the two pharmaceutical companies. They are already partnered under a 2011 deal to discover, develop and commercialize small molecules against the retinoic acid-related orphan receptor gamma for autoimmune diseases. Under that agreement, Lycera is eligible for up to $295 million in research, regulatory and development milestones, in addition to additional sales milestones and low double-digit royalties.

"The productivity and the way the groups worked together gave a very, very firm foundation for continuing the collaboration," Kathleen Metters, the CEO of Lycera, said, according to

Metters said that one reason for the partnership is the similar culture present in both companies.

"We share a culture of scientific excellence, of really putting the need of patients first and foremost," Metters said, according to "(There is a) strong legacy of excellence in medicinal chemistry (at both companies)."

Metters said that Lycera's strategy is to attract financing through equity investing and structured collaboration with partners of high caliber, such as Merck, reports.