The pharmaceutical giant Merck & Co., Inc. (NYSE: MRK) has announced a new acquisition, prepping up its oncology product portfolio. Merck purchased VelosBio, a privately held clinical-stage biopharmaceutical company committed to developing first-in-class cancer therapies, for $2.75 billion in cash. VelosBio’s lead investigational candidate, VLS-101, is currently being evaluated in a Phase 1 and a Phase 2 clinical trial for the treatment of patients with hematologic malignancies and solid tumors, respectively. The transaction is expected to close by the end of 2020.
Merck has been building up its oncology portfolio in recent months, trying to remain competitive in the growing market, according to search results in the HealthcareMandA.com Deal Database. In September, Merck and Seattle Genetics (NASDAQ: SGEN) struck two deals together in oncology research. In one, the two companies partnered up to co-develop and co-commercialize Seattle Genetics’ antibody-drug conjugate ladiratuzumab vedotin globally, which is currently in Phase 2 clinical trials for breast cancer and other solid tumors.
Merck paid Seattle Genetics $600 million upfront and made a $1 billion equity investment in 5 million shares of Seattle Genetics’ stock at $200 per share. In addition, Seattle Genetics could get $2.6 billion in potential milestone payments.
In the other deal, the two companies signed an agreement to give Merck an exclusive license to commercialize Tukysa, a small molecule tyrosine kinase inhibitor, for the treatment of HER2-positive cancers, in Asia, the Middle East and Latin America and other regions outside of the U.S., Canada and Europe. For the agreement, Merck paid $125 million upfront. Seattle Genetics is eligible for progress-dependent milestones of up to $65 million.