EMD Serono, USA
Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany
Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany

Immuno-Oncology: Investigating Cancer Therapies Powered by the Immune System

Immuno-Oncology: Investigating Cancer Therapies Powered by the Immune System

Immuno-oncology focuses on harnessing the body’s immune system to mount an immune response against cancer.

At EMD Serono, we are deeply committed to changing the cancer landscape. Our immuno-oncology (iONC™) research and early development platform, integrating research, early development and biomarker strategies, focuses on discovering and developing potential new therapies that are intended to harness the immune system and activate or augment the body’s natural anti-tumor response. 
Our comprehensive, science-driven strategy includes the following areas of research:
  • Novel mechanisms to boost effector T-cell function in tumors
  • Novel tumor myeloid and stromal factors
  • Targeted molecules to make tumors vaccine sites
  • Immunotherapy-resistant cells
  • Novel tumor antigen classes
At EMD Serono, we believe that the combination of therapies targeting different tumor evasion mechanisms can change the way we treat a complex disease such as cancer in the future.
We are committed to delivering on the promise of immuno-oncology by combining creative thinking with strong research and clinical excellence, and, most importantly, by keeping patient needs at the heart of our efforts


The current immuno-oncology portfolio comprises therapeutic candidates in early clinical development and a pipeline of preclinical molecules. Lead investigational candidates in clinical development include:
Avelumab (also known as MSB0010718C) is an investigational fully human anti-PD-L1 IgG1 monoclonal antibody. By inhibiting PD-L1 interactions, avelumab is thought to enable the activation of T-cells and the adaptive immune system. By retaining a native Fc-region, avelumab is thought to potentially engage the innate immune system and induce antibody-dependent cell-mediated cytotoxicity (ADCC). 
In November 2014, Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany and Pfizer announced a strategic alliance to co-develop and co-commercialize avelumab.
**avelumab = proposed Non-proprietary Name, formerly referred to as Anti-PD-L1 mAb (MSB0010718C)
NHS-IL12 (M9241) is an investigational immunocytokine undergoing clinical development by Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany under the sponsorship of the US NCI. The MAb part of this molecule binds to DNA, which is released by necrotic cells. NHS-IL12 is designed to deliver IL-12 locally to the center of solid tumors, which often contain necrotic tumor cells at their core. The interleukin 12 (IL12) part of the molecule is a genetically modified variant of the natural cytokine which may offer an improved toxicity profile compared to its natural counterpart.
M7824 is an investigational, bifunctional immunotherapy designed to simultaneously block two immuno-inhibitory pathways (PD-L1 and TGFβ) that are commonly used by cancer cells to evade the immune system. The aim of this investigational drug is to control tumor growth by restoring and enhancing anti-tumor immune responses.

*Pipeline products are under clinical investigation and have not been proven to be safe or effective. There is no guarantee any product will be approved in the sought-after indication.

Alliance between Pfizer and Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany

Immuno-oncology is a top priority for Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany, and Pfizer Inc. The global strategic alliance between Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany and Pfizer Inc., New York, US, enables the companies to benefit from each other’s strengths and capabilities and further explore the therapeutic potential of immunotherapy. The alliance is focused on developing high-priority international clinical programs to investigate immunotherapy regimens and is striving to find new ways to treat cancer. For more information, visit the Alliance website.


The hallmark of our immuno-oncology program is our commitment to patients. From research through clinical development, patient needs are at the heart of our research efforts.