Merck’s $2 Billion Acquisition of Dallas-based Peloton Therapeutics

Local clinical-stage biopharmaceutical company Peloton Therapeutics is being acquired by pharmaceutical giant Merck for an upfront payment of $1.05 billion just as the company was about to go public. Peloton shareholders may receive $1.15 billion more if regulatory and sales milestones are met.

Peloton Therapeutics focuses on novel medications for patients with cancer and other life-threatening conditions and is developing a new oral treatment to target late-stage renal cell carcinoma, showing signs of anti-tumor activity in clinical studies. The company raised $150 million in Series E funding in February. Peloton was founded by UT Southwestern scientists with an $11 million grant from Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas, which caused executive director Bill Grimson to resign from the institute when complaints were made that it was improper gift.

Cancer care is rapidly advancing due to a number of advancements, including immunotherapy. Last fall, D CEO hosted a panel on cancer care, where experts discussed the latest treatments in the Dallas area. Immunotherapy is when a patient’s cells are modified and reinserted back into their body so they can attack the cancerous cells. “The ability to use the immune system to attack cancer through the use of Car T cells and engineering them in the lab to specifically attack your type of cancer. It was approved by the FDA for the treatment of leukemia, revolutionizing how we think about the care of children of leukemia. Moving to a more targeted immunotherapy is really what the future holds,” said Dr. Ted Laetsch, an Associate Professor at UT Southwestern, and Director of Experimental Therapeutics Program, Gill Center for Cancer and Blood Disorders at Children’s Health. 

“This acquisition exemplifies Merck’s strategy to pursue novel therapeutic candidates based on exceptionally promising and innovative research,” said Dr. Roger M. Perlmutter, president, Merck Research Laboratories via release. “Peloton scientists have applied their unique expertise in HIF-2α biology to develop PT2977, which has already shown intriguing activity in the treatment of renal cell carcinoma. We look forward to advancing this late-stage asset as part of our broad oncology R&D program.”

“Merck is recognized as a leader in cancer research and shares our commitment to accelerating the development of candidates targeting HIF-2α to help patients with advanced cancers and other diseases,” said John A. Josey, Ph.D., Peloton’s Chief Executive Officer via release. “We are proud to have advanced PT2977 to this stage of development and believe that Merck is well suited to build upon the progress our company has made.”