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Merck to acquire Australian cancer-drug company for $394 million

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Biopharm giant Merck has agreed to buy an Australian company specializing in cancer immunotherapy for $394 million.

Merck, which is publicly traded and based in Kenilworth, N.J., said it will operate Viralytics as a wholly owned subsidiary. The transaction is expected to close in June, with Viralytics shareholders set to vote on the deal in May.

Sydney-based Viralytics markets a drug therapy that uses viruses to infect and kill cancer cells.

“Viralytics’s approach of engaging the innate immune system to target and kill cancer cells complements our immuno-oncology strategy, which is focused on the rapid advancement of innovative monotherapy approaches and synergistic combinations to help the broadest range of cancer patients,” said Dr. Roy Baynes, senior vice president and head of global clinical development at Merck, in a Feb. 21 statement. “We are eager to further build on Viralytics’ science as we continue our efforts to harness the immune system to improve long-term disease control and survival outcomes for people with cancer.”

Amgen, a major U.S. competitor for Merck, won regulatory approval for a similar therapy.

Industry-watchers note the price represents a 160 percent premium over the recent Australian stock price for Viralytics and reflects a go-go environment for biotech deals.

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Carl DiOrio

Carl DiOrio

Carl DiOrio is the managing editor for NJBIZ. You can reach him at cdiorio@njbiz.com

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