Merck Looks to Become Bigger Player in Hepatitis C Market with Acquisition

Between developing its own pipeline of therapies for patients with hepatitis C and acquiring another company known for its work in this field, it looks like Merck is taking steps to be a larger player in HCV market.

Between developing its own pipeline of therapies for patients with hepatitis C (HCV) and acquiring another company known for its work in this field, it looks like Merck is taking steps to be a larger player in HCV market.

A press release from Merck noted the company had reached an agreement to purchase Idenix Pharmaceuticals, Inc., specifically mentioning Idenix’s “expertise in nucleoside/nucleotide chemistry and prodrug technologies” and “promising portfolio of hepatitis C candidates” as being the catalyst for the deal.

Idenix has developed two nucleotide prodrugs, identified as IDX21437 and IDX21459, as well as an NS5A inhibitor known as samatasvir. The products are being evaluated “for their potential inclusion in the development of all oral, pan-genotypic fixed-dose combination regimens.”

“Idenix’s investigational hepatitis C candidates complement our promising therapies in development and will help advance our work to develop a highly effective, once-daily, all oral, ribavirin-free, pan-genotypic regimen that has a duration of treatment as short as possible for millions of patients in need around the world,” said Roger Perlmutter, MD, president of Merck Research Laboratories.

Merck’s work in the area so far includes the development of MK-5172, an investigational HCV NS3/4A protease inhibitor, and MK-8742, an investigational HCV NS5A replication complex inhibitor. The press release from Merck noted that the two drugs have received a breakthrough therapy designation from the US Food and Drug Administration.

It was announced in April of this year that Merck was preparing to initiate Phase 3 clinical trials for MK-5172 and MK-8742.