2022-11-22| M&A

Merck Expands Hematology Portfolio With $1.35 Billion Imago Buy

by Joy Lin
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Merck (known as MSD outside the US and Canada) is buying clinical-stage biopharma Imago BioSciences for $36 a share or roughly $1.35 billion. The acquisition, which will take place through a subsidiary, will expand Merck’s pipeline of hematology drugs. 

“We continue to invest in our pipeline with a focus on applying our unique capabilities to unlock the value of breakthrough science for the patients we serve,” said Robert M. Davis, CEO of Merck, in a press release.

Merck’s other hematological purchases include VelosBio for $2.75 billion in cash in November 2020. That acquisition handed Merck a Phase 1 antibody-drug conjugate that targets the receptor tyrosine kinase-like orphan receptor 1 (ROR1).

Related Article: Johnson & Johnson Throws Down $16.6 billion for Abiomed

Imago’s Clinical Assets

Imago focuses on developing treatments for myeloproliferative neoplasms (MPNs), or chronic cancers of the blood and bone marrow. Its lead candidate bomedemstat (IMG-7289), an oral drug that inhibits lysine-specific demethylase 1 (LSD1), is currently undergoing Phase 2 clinical trials for several indications including essential thrombocythemia (ET), myelofibrosis (MF), and polycythemia vera (PV). 

The company this June presented data from bomedemstat’s Phase 2 ET study showing up to 81% of patients had durable responses to the drug, achieving normalized platelet counts for at least 12 weeks. 58% of treated patients experienced improvements intheir symptoms at 24 weeks. ET is a condition where the body produces too many platelets. 

Meanwhile, Imago recently completed enrollment in a Phase 2 trial of bomedemstat as a monotherapy for patients with advanced MF. Plans are underway for discussions with the US FDA over the endpoints and control arm for a Phase 3 pivotal program in MF, the company mentions on its website

“Evidence indicates that LSD1 plays an important role in the maturation of blood cells in the bone marrow,” said Dr. Dean Y. Li, president, Merck Research Laboratories. 

“We look forward to working with the Imago team to further investigate the potential of bomedemstat for patients with myeloproliferative neoplasms.”

In addition to bomedemstat, Imago is investigating discovery phase IND candidates for hemoglobin deficiencies and other malignancies. 

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