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M2Gen Lands New Private Investment, Inks Research Deal with Merck

NEW YORK – M2Gen said Wednesday that it has received an unspecified new investment from Clayton, Dubilier & Rice, the Merck Global Health Innovation Fund, and McKesson Ventures. M2Gen said that the investment makes private equity firm CD&R its largest shareholder.

The Tampa, Florida-based, oncology-focused informatics company also announced that it has entered into a five-year partnership with Merck to provide the pharmaceutical giant with deidentified clinical and genomic data to assist with cancer drug discovery and development. Merck has been working on and off with M2Gen since the latter was launched as a program within Moffitt in 2006.

Previous collaborations have informed development of Merck's PD-1 inhibitor Keytruda (pembrolizumab), according to M2Gen.

Merck researchers will access the data through the Oncology Research Information Exchange Network (ORIEN), which Moffitt, M2Gen, and Ohio State University's James Cancer Hospital and Solove Research Institute created in 2014 to support data sharing among cancer centers. ORIEN now connects 18 US institutions and other partners, including Takeda Pharmaceutical.

ORIEN features a research program called Avatar that collects deidentified genomic and clinical information from consenting patients, including disease stage, demographics, and treatment history. Participating cancer researchers can receive rich molecular data plus access to a network of potential collaborators for the discovery and clinical development of novel cancer therapeutics.

ORIEN, and thus Avatar, are dependent upon Total Cancer Care, a protocol that M2Gen Founder, Chairman, and former CEO William Dalton came up with in the mid-2000s when he was president and CEO of Moffitt. Total Cancer Care is now co-owned by M2Gen and Moffitt and licensed to partners.

"Merck has been a key strategic partner to M2Gen since helping to found the Total Cancer Care protocol 15 years ago, and we are very proud of what we have accomplished together," M2Gen President and CEO Helge Bastian said in a statement. "We greatly value Merck's long-term partnership and see tremendous potential in it for the future."

As a result of the new investment, CD&R Operating Partner Sandra Peterson, former group worldwide chairman of Johnson & Johnson, has been named chair of M2Gen's board.

Moffitt, Hearst Health, and the Ohio State University Foundation retain a "significant minority interest" in M2Gen, according to the company.

With the funding, M2Gen has hired Todd Johnson as chief growth officer and Wilf Russell as chief technology officer. Johnson most recently was senior VP of life sciences commercialization and clinical research at UnitedHealth Group subsidiary Optum. Russell has long worked in technology at companies including Volvo, Nike, and Microsoft.