Merck CEO Frazier: 'The future of the industry is going to be more partnerships'

Merck ($MRK) CEO Kenneth Frazier is deploying his deal team this year with some very specific instructions to step up their game. Speaking to an investor group, the CEO made it clear that the pharma giant needs more deals to add new therapies to the pipeline. And he's particularly interested in roping some new hepatitis C programs.

"The future of the industry is going to be more partnerships," Frazier told an industry group at a Goldman Sachs' event in New York, according to a report in the Star-Telegram. "We're going to continue to look for more partners to create the best therapy for patients." He added: "My goal is to augment the pipeline. The way to augment is to find those assets that we can acquire. Typically, for Merck, the sweet spot has been (to acquire them) earlier rather than later."

Merck has been a big player in hepatitis C, recently gaining an approval for Victrelis. But Victrelis has lagged behind Vertex's Incivek, which in turn has been overshadowed somewhat but experimental drugs that promise to steal a big chunk of the blockbuster market.

Playing in the hep C field this year, though, could prove expensive. Gilead's ($GILD) recent $11 billion deal to acquire Pharmasset puzzled some analysts who felt the biotech was paying too much, too soon. But Merck has the cash on hand to counter any bid it likes--making this a seller's market.

- here's the story from the Star-Telegram