Merck & Co., Inc. (NYSE:MRK), known as MSD outside the United States and Canada, and Dynavax Technologies Corporation (NASDAQ:DVAX) announced they have entered into two clinical trial collaboration agreements to investigate the potential synergistic effect of combining immunotherapies from both companies’ pipelines: Merck’s anti-PD-1 therapy, KEYTRUDA┬« (pembrolizumab), and its investigational anti-interleukin-10 (anti-IL-10) immunomodulator, MK-1966, with Dynavax’s investigational toll-like receptor 9 (TLR9) agonist, SD-101.

SD-101, KEYTRUDA, and MK-1966 are immunotherapies designed to enhance the body’s own defenses in fighting cancer. SD-101 is designed to mediate anti-tumor effects by triggering both innate and adaptive immune responses, including the induction of high levels of Type 1 interferon to stimulate recruitment of T-cells. KEYTRUDA is a humanized monoclonal antibody that blocks the interaction between PD-1 (programmed death receptor-1) and its ligands, PD-L1 and PD-L2. MK-1966 is an investigational anti-IL-10 immunomodulator designed to neutralize the immune-suppressive environment for tumors. The collaboration includes multiple studies that will evaluate:

  • Safety and efficacy of combining SD-101 with KEYTRUDA in patients with advanced melanoma; this Phase 1b/2, multicenter, open-label study is expected to be initiated in the second half of 2015.
  • Safety and efficacy of combining SD-101 with MK-1966 in patients with solid or hematological malignancies; this Phase 1 study is expected to be initiated in the second half of 2015.

“The collaboration with Dynavax is rooted in Merck’s commitment to advancing breakthrough science in the field of immuno-oncology in order to address the complex interplay between the immune system and cancer,” said Dr. Eric Rubin, vice president and therapeutic area head, oncology early stage development, Merck Research Laboratories. “We are pleased that this latest collaboration not only investigates the potential of KEYTRUDA as a combination therapy, but also includes our new immunomodulator candidate, MK-1966.”

“Our interest in working with Merck on these clinical collaborations was propelled by the synergistic activity we have seen when SD-101 is combined with checkpoint inhibitors in preclinical models,” said Eddie Gray, chief executive officer of Dynavax. “These collaborations with Merck will facilitate our objective to demonstrate SD-101’s potential to complement multiple therapeutic modalities and thereby provide benefit to patients.”

Under the terms of the agreement, Dynavax will sponsor and fund the SD-101 and KEYTRUDA study. Merck will sponsor and fund the SD-101 and MK-1966 study. The agreements include provisions where the parties may agree to extend either collaboration to include a Phase 3 clinical trial. Additional details of the agreements between Dynavax and Merck, through a subsidiary, were not disclosed. (Original Source)

Shares of Dynavax Technologies opened today at $23.21 and are currently trading up at $23.68. DVAX has a 1-year high of $26.89 and a 1-year low of $13.10. The stock’s 50-day moving average is $21.65 and its 200-day moving average is $18.99.

On the ratings front, Dynavax Technologies has been the subject of a number of recent research reports. In a report issued on March 23, J.P. Morgan analyst Anupam Rama upgraded DVAX to Buy, with a price target of $36, which represents a potential upside of 55.1% from where the stock is currently trading. Separately, on March 2, MLV & Co.’s Vernon Bernardino reiterated a Buy rating on the stock and has a price target of $25.

According to, which ranks over 7,500 financial analysts and bloggers to gauge the performance of their past recommendations, Anupam Rama and Vernon Bernardino have a total average return of 81.7% and -9.2% respectively. Rama has a success rate of 66.7% and is ranked #446 out of 3610 analysts, while Bernardino has a success rate of 35.1% and is ranked #3527.

Dynavax Technologies Corp is a clinical-stage biopharmaceutical company. The Company is engaged in thedevelopment for the prevention of infectious disease, the treatment of autoimmune and inflammatory diseases, and the treatment of cancer.