Developers come knocking as Merck lines up its pipeline sale

Reengineering a Big Pharma pipeline is no easy task, as Meeta Chatterjee, Merck's head of global outlicensing and asset management, explains to Lisa Jarvis at Chemical & Engineering News. Unlike some of its rivals like GlaxoSmithKline, which chopped off entire therapeutic areas in order to gain a sharper focus on its most promising drug development projects, Merck ($MRK) opted to slim down the pipeline by selectively shedding programs covering a spectrum of diseases.

Some of their unwanted programs just got dropped due to an unsafe toxicity profile. Some had to be handed back to biotech partners. A few ties were maintained by options on a later acquisition deal. And some were earmarked for sale. Once the word was out, Merck had a long line of venture groups and other deal makers knocking on its doors asking to take a look at the experimental treatments now up for grabs.

"We've been approached by everyone," Chatterjee tells C&EN. And after putting together the portfolio of prospects, Merck set out to pair companies and assets. Obviously, Merck had to be sensitive to what it can say to everyone about these drug assets. "It's almost reverse competitive intelligence."

Says Chatterjee: "Merck did some out-licensing in the past, but there was never a dedicated group, and the number of out-licensing deals were nowhere near what we were being asked to do."

- here's the story from Chemical & Engineering News