Merck snaps up Inspire's eye drugs in $430M buyout

Biotech IPOs may be hard to pull off, but buyouts are all the rage in the early part of 2011. And Merck ($MRK) joined the big game with today's announcement that it has struck a deal to acquire eye-drug developer Inspire Pharmaceuticals ($ISPH) for $430 million in cash. The $5 per share price reflects a modest 26 percent premium for disillusioned investors in the Raleigh, NC-based biotech.

Inspire ran smack into a brick wall early this year when its lead drug for cystic fibrosis flunked a late-stage study, triggering a meltdown in its share price. Its R&D chief exited last summer after a new CEO, Adrian Adams, came in to shake the place up. Now Merck will step in to pick up the pieces for its ophthalmology pipeline.

"Merck continues to build upon its long-term commitment to improving therapeutic options for the treatment of eye diseases," said Beverly Lybrand, senior vice president and general manager, neuroscience and ophthalmology, Merck, in a statement. "This acquisition combines the talented commercialization organization at Inspire with the excellent team already in place at Merck thereby strengthening our ophthalmology business and positioning us for future growth with an expanded portfolio."

"Based upon an extensive analysis of various strategic options, as I have outlined since we announced the results of the TIGER-2 Phase 3 clinical trial, we believe this combination provides a compelling and timely opportunity for our shareholders to realize the value of their investment in Inspire," said Adams.

- check out the Inspire release