The execs at Merck KGaA have been hinting around for months now that they're interested in doing some sizable deals to build up the drug R&D side of the business at the conglomerate. And CEO Karl-Ludwig Kley helped feed the rumor mill on Friday with his boast that the company has deep enough pockets to pull off a multibillion-dollar buyout without straining.
For nearly 100 years, Merck and Merck KGaA have been independent entities, but their shared name has led to confusion, sniping and even legal fracas. Now the two former relatives are working behind closed doors to smooth things over, Bloomberg reports, but don't expect either to bend much on the issue of identity.
A series of setbacks has made things tough for Merck KGaA's drug development operation, but CEO Karl-Ludwig Kley said the German company remains committed to the long-term promise of its pharma wing.
Merck KGaA is still crawling through a broad restructuring effort, but the German drugmaker said it's keeping an eye out for major deals that could help it piece together a promising pipeline after years of setbacks.
Merck KGaA is strengthening its embrace of China's BeiGene, adding a second cancer drug development alliance to their collaboration along with an extra $232 million package of new milestone payments.
The head of the pharma division, Stefan Oschmann, tells the Financial Times that the Darmstadt-based drug developer is looking to stretch its $1.5 billion annual research budget with some additional cost-sharing deals that might include private equity groups as well as other industry partners.
Merck KGaA R&D subsidiary Merck Serono will provide $35 million over four years to fund a dedicated unit that will apply the Belgian biotech's "Nanobody" approach to all of Merck's core disease areas, including oncology, immuno-oncology, immunology and neurology. The unit will work on new programs through in vivo proof of principle.
Shares of Oncothyreon soared this morning after its partner Merck KGaA said it would take a second swipe at trying to find some value in Stimuvax, the cancer vaccine (now renamed tecemotide) that has already decisively flunked a Phase III trial.
Sofinnova Ventures and Novo A/S led a $34.5 million Series A round for ObsEva, a Geneva-based biotech that is snatching up Merck Serono's preterm labor drug program and pushing ahead on the development front. And MS Ventures, the Big Pharma's VC arm, is taking an equity stake in the biotech company in exchange for the worldwide rights.
Merck KGaA signaled Thursday that it will make a bigger commitment to investing in emerging biotech companies.