Merck (NYSE: MRK), known as MSD outside the United States and Canada, and AiCuris today announced that they have entered into an exclusive worldwide licensing agreement for AiCuris' novel portfolio of investigational medicines targeting Human Cytomegalovirus (HCMV), including letermovir (AIC246), an oral, late-stage antiviral candidate being investigated for the treatment and prevention of HCMV infection in transplant recipients. "There is a significant need for additional medicines for the treatment of HCMV infection, which is one of the most common viral infections affecting organ and bone marrow transplant patients," said Dr. Roger Pomerantz, senior vice president, Worldwide Licensing and Knowledge Management, and Infectious Disease Franchise Head, Merck Research Laboratories. "AiCuris has built a leading portfolio of innovative antiviral HCMV candidates that are designed to address novel targets and offer the potential for HCMV prophylaxis. This portfolio complements Merck's broad antiviral portfolio." Under the agreement, Merck, through a subsidiary, will gain worldwide rights to develop and commercialize candidates in AiCuris' HCMV portfolio. AiCuris will receive a €110 million upfront payment and is eligible for milestone payments of up to €332.5 million based on successful achievement of development, regulatory and commercialization goals for HCMV candidates, including letermovir, an additional back-up candidate as well as other Phase I candidates designed to act via an alternate mechanism. In addition, AiCuris will be entitled to receive royalty payments reflecting the advanced stage of the clinical program on any potential products that result from the agreement. Merck will be responsible for all development activities and costs. "This is the first development deal derived from AiCuris' strong pipeline, and we are very pleased to have Merck, a major global player in healthcare, be our license partner," commented Dr. Thomas Strüngmann, majority investor in AiCuris. "Merck's ongoing commitment to infectious disease research, combined with its experience in developing and marketing antiviral products, makes them an excellent partner for AiCuris' unique HCMV portfolio," added Dr. Helga Rübsamen-Schaeff, AiCuris' CEO. "We very much look forward to working with the scientists and clinical development teams at Merck to maximize the therapeutic potential of these candidates for patients."