Merck is acquiring VelosBio for $2.75 billion
… Merck builds oncology business with purchase of VelosBio…

Merck Announces $2.75 Billion Acquisition of VelosBio

Surprise deal will bolster Merck’s oncology business enterprise


John G. Baresky

Merck (NYSE: MRK) has announced it is acquiring the oncology research company VelosBio Inc. from Pappas Capital plus other investor stakeholders for about $2.75 billion. VelosBio is headquartered in San Diego, California and was founded in 2017.

Pappas Capital is a venture capital investment firm based in Durham, North Carolina. Founded in 1994, they are purely focused on business opportunities in the life sciences sector.

Merck’s purpose for the acquisition is to build up its oncology research and development capabilities and expand its pipeline with additional breast and lung cancer products. The deal is part of a larger corporate strategy Merck put into place early in 2020 to transform its organization and establish a new growth path into the future.

VelosBio has a unique focus on oncology product development

A primary focus of VelosBio is the development of first-in-class antibody-drug conjugates (ADCs) and bispecific antibodies (BiAbs) that target receptor tyrosine kinase-like orphan receptor 1 (ROR1). They have four candidates currently in its pipeline; three are in preclinical trials and one is in Phase 1 clinical trials.

Merck is assertively transforming their organization

Beginning with the approval and launch of Ervebo (the world’s first Ebola vaccine approved by the FDA and EMA) in December of 2019, Merck has been non-stop in both organizational transformation and new product commercialization initiatives. The company has a strategic growth plan in place that involves selling off some of its product franchises and business units to sharpen focus on developing new, advanced therapies by investing in research and strategic acquisitions. These measures include:

  • Announcing the formation of a new spinoff company based on a major corporate divestiture of certain brand, legacy product and biosimiliar business franchises
  • Sale of their StayWell business unit to WebMD/Internet Brands
  • Entering the global battle against COVID-19 by investing in the development of an antiviral drug and 2 vaccine products (which includes the acquisition of Themis Bioscience)
  • Achieving significant progress in an oncology collaboration in the development of a prostate cancer tandem therapy with their Keytruda (pembrolizumab) drug and Seattle Genetics’ Padcev(enfortumab vedotin-ejfv) therapy
  • Successfully launching two new oncology therapies, Koselugo (selemetinib)and Lynparaza (olaparib) in partnership with Astra Zeneca
  • Participating in a recent venture with Sanofi that focuses on a potential oncology tandem therapy consisting of Keytruda (pembrolizumab) and Sanofi’s pipeline candidate THOR-707

Based in Kenilworth, New Jersey, Merck generated more than $47 billion in sales during 2019. Moving forward, it is clear Merck is excited about its plans for the future and is fully embracing the business opportunities and challenges of oncology patient care. Likewise, patients, medical professionals and investors anticipate great things from Merck’s innovation and ongoing success.

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