Merck To Purchase California Biotech Firm
Merck has announced that for $1.1 billion it will acquire Sirna Therapeutics, one of the leading companies pursuing research in RNA interference, a natural mechanism that inactivates particular genes, the New York Times reports. Merck's Tuesday all-cash offer for Sirna is worth $13 per share, more than double Sirna's $6.45 closing price on Monday.
According to the Times, the deal "is the largest sign yet of interest among pharmaceuticals" in RNAi, the discovery of which won scientists Andrew Fire of Stanford University and Craig Mello of University of Massachusetts this year's Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine (Pollack, New York Times, 10/31).
Merck said the purchase will enable researchers to target certain parts of a cell for destruction without harming neighboring healthy cells, a tactic that is particularly promising for cancer research (Johnson, Wall Street Journal, 10/31).
Merck President Peter Kim said, "We believe that RNAi could significantly change the way in which we go about discovering and developing drugs and could become a new way to treat patients with unmet medical needs."
Fire recently noted there still is more scientific progress to be made before the technology can be developed into drugs, including how to ensure the drug reaches its target without damaging healthy cells (Elias, AP/South Florida Sun-Sentinel, 10/31).