Roger Perlmutter, Merck

#ASH19: Here’s why Mer­ck is pay­ing $2.7B to­day to grab Ar­Qule and its next-gen BTK drug, lin­ing up Eli Lil­ly ri­val­ry

Just a few months af­ter mak­ing a splash at the Eu­ro­pean Hema­tol­ogy As­so­ci­a­tion sci­en­tif­ic con­fab with an ear­ly snap­shot of pos­i­tive da­ta for their BTK in­hibitor ARQ 531, Ar­Qule has won a $2.7 bil­lion buy­out deal from Mer­ck.

Mer­ck is scoop­ing up a next-gen BTK drug — which is mak­ing a splash at ASH to­day — from Ar­Qule in an M&A pact set at $20 a share $AR­QL. That’s more than twice Fri­day’s $9.66 close. And Mer­ck R&D chief Roger Perl­mut­ter her­ald­ed a deal that nets “mul­ti­ple clin­i­cal-stage oral ki­nase in­hibitors.”

This is the sec­ond biotech buy­out pact to­day, mark­ing a brisk tem­po of M&A deals in the lead-up to the big JP Mor­gan gath­er­ing in mid-Jan­u­ary. It’s no sur­prise the ac­qui­si­tions are both for can­cer drugs, where Sanofi will try to make its mark while Mer­ck beefs up a stel­lar on­col­o­gy fran­chise. And bolt-ons are all the rage at the ma­jor phar­ma play­ers, which you could al­so see in No­var­tis’ re­cent $9.7 bil­lion Med­Co buy­out.

Ar­Qule — which comes out on top af­ter their orig­i­nal lead drug foundered in Phase III — high­light­ed ear­ly da­ta on ‘531 at EHA from a group of 6 chron­ic lym­pho­cyt­ic leukemia pa­tients who got the 65 mg dose. Four of them ex­pe­ri­enced a par­tial re­sponse — a big ad­vance for a com­pa­ny that failed with ear­li­er at­tempts.

Endpoints News

Sign up to read this article for free.

Get free access to a limited number of articles, plus choose newsletters to get straight to your inbox.