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    Mersana, Merck Serono announce new oncology partnership

    Mersana Therapeutics Inc. and Merck Serono said Tuesday that they will collaborate on antibody-drug conjugates that can be used to develop potential cancer treatments.

    Headquartered in Cambridge, Mersana is working on an antibody-drug conjugate platform that is designed for the delivery of drugs; these conjugates can be loaded with a drug payload that is released once inside a targeted cancer cell.

    With headquarters in Germany, Merck Serono is the biopharmaceutical division of Merck.

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    Under the agreement, Mersana will receive an upfront payment of an undisclosed amount. If Mersana achieves all the milestones in the agreement, the upfront and milestone payments could amount to as much as $792 million, the company said.

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    In July 2012, Mersana Therapeutics raised $27 million in Series A-1 financing. Investors include NEA, Fidelity Biosciences, Harris & Harris Group, Pfizer Venture Investments, ProQuest Investments, and Rho Ventures.

     In April, Mersana announced a collaboration with Takeda, a Japanese drug giant with a big presence in Massachusetts. That collaboration seeks to develop a type of antibody-drug conjugates that will use Takeda’s novel antibodies against multiple cancer targets.

    Chris Reidy can be reached at reidy@globe.com.