Merck open to more biotech deals: research chief

Thu Jun 12, 2014 3:05pm EDT

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(Reuters) - Merck & Co Inc's (MRK.N) research chief Roger Perlmutter said the No. 2 U.S. drugmaker would consider big acquisitions of biotech companies for their medicines, rather than to obtain their drug-development technologies.

Perlmutter, speaking on Thursday to analysts and investors at the annual Goldman Sachs healthcare conference being held near Los Angeles, said Merck continues to have an appetite for deals following its planned $3.85 billion purchase of Idenix Pharmaceuticals Inc IDIX.O.

Merck earlier this week announced its agreement to buy Idenix, and plans to combine the two companies' most promising oral drugs for hepatitis C to produce a faster, more effective cure for the often-fatal liver infection affecting 170 million people worldwide.

Perlmutter on Thursday said Merck has been a pioneer in development of hepatitis C drugs, including injectable interferon medicines that had been the backbone of therapy but which are now being sidelined in favor of more effective and better-tolerated drugs.

He said newer Merck drugs, including a hoped-for triple therapy using an experimental Idenix treatment called IDX21437, will make Merck a top hepatitis C competitor in years to come.

"The best (drug) regimen that has a fair cost proposition will take a substantial part of the market and that's where I want to be," he said.

Perlmutter could not immediately be reached by Reuters for further comment, including what he meant by "fair cost proposition."

The company's shares were little change at $58.30 in afternoon trading on the New York Stock Exchange.

(Reporting by Ransdell Pierson; Editing by Bernard Orr)

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