FLICKR, CHRIS POTTERIn a deal worth an estimated $3.85 billion, Merck is slated to acquire the Cambridge, Massachusetts-based drug development firm Idenix Pharmaceuticals. The biopharma currently has three drug candidates for hepatitis C in clinical development: an NS5A inhibitor and two nucleotide prodrugs.
“Idenix has established a promising portfolio of hepatitis C candidates based on its expertise in nucleoside/nucleotide chemistry and prodrug technologies,” Merck Executive Vice President Roger Perlmutter said in a statement. “Idenix’s investigational hepatitis C candidates . . . will help advance our work to develop a highly effective, once-daily, all oral, ribavirin-free, pan-genotypic regimen that has a duration of treatment as short as possible.”
“An ideal therapy means something that works in every hepatitis C-infected patient, irrespective of which genotype,” Perlmutter told Reuters.
Merck’s purchase puts the drug giant in closer competition with Gilead Science, which markets Solvaldi—a drug similar to Idenix’s prodrug IDX21437.
As The New York Times’ DealBook blog reported, “This deal makes perfect sense and will make the hep C market a two-horse race between Gilead and Merck,” Citigroup biotech analyst Yaron Werber said on Monday. And as Bloomberg noted, Johnson & Johnson and AbbVie, too, have horses in the hepatitis C drug race.