US firm will pay Bristol-Myers Squibb and Ono $625m plus royalties on future sales of immunotherapy

Merck & Co of the US has reached an agreement with Bristol-Myers Squibb (BMS) and Ono Pharmaceuticals to settle a patent dispute over antibody cancer drugs.

BMS and Ono asserted that Merck’s Keytruda (pembrolizumab) infringed their patents for Opdivo (nivolumab) – an antibody that activates the immune system to fight cancer by inhibiting programmed cell death protein 1 (PD-1). In exchange for a license to keep selling Keytruda, Merck will pay $625 million (£497 million), plus royalties on future sales of the drug until the end of 2026.