Biotech All Stars Buy Castoff Experimental Merck Cancer Drug

News | 06. 06. 2012


June 6,2012

Tesaro of Waltham, Mass., a tiny biotech now preparing for its initial public offering, just licensed a promising anti-cancer drug from Merck. The startup is attempting to repeat the success its top executives had turning Big Pharma’s castoffs into hits at MGI Pharma, which was bought by Eisai for $3.9 billion in 2008.

The drug, known as niraparib or MK-4827, is a medicine that targets a mutation that can cause certain hard-to-treat breast and ovarian cancers. AstraZeneca, Abbott Laboratories and Pfizer are also developing similar medicines. The deal was disclosed in a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

At the same time that big drug companies are increasingly buying new medicines developed outside their own walls, they are also selling more of the medicines that they invent but don’t plan on developing to smaller biotechs. This has always happened – Cubist Pharmaceuticals’ antibiotic Cubicin was licensed from Eli Lilly more than a decade ago. But now it is becoming more commonplace, with Pfizer, for instance, talking about the option of selling experimental drugs to outside companies as a central part of its strategy.