Merck Opens Up to Europe
Despite a strong trend among Big Pharma towards in-licensing over the last decade, Merck & Co. hasn't been particularly willing to embrace research ideas outside its own labs. But that's changing. Merck's new European in-licensing initiative proves that the Big Pharma recognizes, and hopes to access, the wealth of science and potential deals beyond US borders.
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Merck & Co. Inc.'s recovery drive involves changing every aspect of its business, and doing so urgently. That urgency applies to partnering, too: In March 2006, the giant announced three new deals, one with NicOx on a series of anti-hypertension compounds, one with Neuromed in pain and the third with Paratek Pharmaceuticals Inc. for a Phase I antibiotic. They mark a shift at Merck towards more clinical stage dealmaking.
Vioxx's withdrawal late in September just made partnering success even more critical to Merck & Co. With a $2.55 billion gap in revenues from Vioxx and having lost two Phase III development products late in 2003, the company now leans more heavily still on external R&D success. That's good news for Merck's partners--particularly those with products.
Merck's deal with deCode provides valuable endorsement of the Icelandic firm's clinical development expertise, and reinforces the Big Pharma's partnering drive. But although interesting scientifically-the partners claim the deal is different in scope and nature to most pharmacogenomics projects-this alliance is unlikely, in the near term at least, to improve Merck's chances of late-stage success.