Merck & Co bags option to acquire pain specialist Quartet

Merck & Co has linked up with privately-owned Quartet Medicine to develop treatments for chronic pain and inflammation and has also taken an option to buy the firm.

The collaboration centres around Quartet’s pipeline of small molecule drugs which modulate the tetrahydrobiopterin (BH4) pathway, which has been implicated in a range of chronic pain and inflammatory conditions. Cashwise, the Cambridge, Massachusetts group will receive up to $20 million, split equally across an upfront payment and development milestones.

The money will be used to advance Quartet’s lead programme through Phase IIa for the treatment of pain. In return, Merck obtains an exclusive option to purchase Quartet by paying up to $575 million extra.

Quartet, which was co-founded by Atlas Venture, has only been in operation since 2014 and recently closed a $23.3 million Series A financing. Other backers include the investment arms of Novartis and Pfizer.

“Attracting a top-tier partner like Merck provides additional validation to the importance of BH4 in regulating chronic disease,” said chairman Bruce Booth.