PHARMACY

Merck’s annual briefing includes updates on new business plan

BY Drew Buono

WHITEHOUSE STATION, N.J. Merck held its annual business briefing recently during which the company reviewed the progress it had achieved under a new plan to re-engineer the way it develops and distributes medicines and vaccines around the world.

“We are realizing the benefits of the successful execution of our strategy. We have created a model for success that encompasses every aspect of our business, including research and development, manufacturing and commercialization,” said Richard Clark, Merck chairman, president and chief executive officer.” As a result, Merck has a sustainable business model that will allow us to realize the goals we set for 2010 and to position the company for future success.”

Some of the goals of the company that they have either met or plan to meet include: launching seven new drugs and vaccines in the past two years including MK-0524B, which is a drug candidate that combines simvastatin with laropiprant and extended-release niacin to lower triglycerides and HDL-cholesterol. Another drug candidate is MK-0364, taranabant, which is an investigational medication for the treatment of obesity.

The company also expects compound annual revenue growth of 4 percent to 6 percent from 2005 to 2010, including 50 percent of all joint venture revenue, as well as double-digit compound annual earnings per share growth from 2005 to 2010, excluding certain items. And, the company plans to return product gross margin to pre-Zocor levels in 2008.

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GSK inks potential $1.4 billion development deal with OncoMed

BY Drew Buono

LONDON and PHILADELPHIA GlaxoSmithKline and OncoMed Pharmaceuticals have entered into an agreement to discover, develop and market novel antibody therapeutics to target cancer stem cells, which are believed to be key in the metastasis and recurrence of cancer cells.

Under the terms of the deal, OncoMed can earn milestone payments from GSK of up to $1.4 billion, based on the achievement of specified discovery, development, regulatory and commercial milestones. OncoMed will also receive double-digit royalties on all collaboration product sales. In addition, GSK will have an option to invest in a future initial public offering by OncoMed.

Under the partnership, GSK received an option to license four OncoMed product candidates directed at multiple cancer stem cell targets. The alliance with GSK includes OncoMed’s lead antibody product candidate, OMP-21M18, a monoclonal antibody, which is scheduled to enter the clinic in 2008.

“This alliance confirms GSK’s growing status as a world leader in the development of new oncology medicines for use in the treatment, prevention and supportive care of cancer patients and provides us access to an exciting new area of drug discovery. We believe that targeting cancer stem cells has the potential to change the paradigm of how oncology patients are treated and we are very excited to be working with OncoMed to develop novel and innovative medicines in this regard,” said Hugh Cowley, senior vice president and head of the company’s Center of Excellence for External Drug Discovery.

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Roche nominates its own candidates for Ventana board

BY Drew Buono

BASEL, Switzerland Roche has been trying to acquire Ventana for about six months and Ventana has called Roche’s offers “grossly inadequate,” according to published reports. Now, Roche has made a move to increase its chances of buying the company.

Roche has nominated four candidates for election to Ventana’s board of directors at its next annual general meeting, scheduled for June.

“We have taken this step, as required by Ventana’s bylaws, because we are committed to pursuing the acquisition of Ventana. However, we continue to prefer a negotiated transaction,” said Franz Humer, chairman and chief executive officer of Roche.

“All of our nominees have proven track records in their areas of expertise and if elected, we are confident that they will act in the best interests of Ventana stockholders by exploring all alternatives for maximizing shareholder value.”

Roche’s offer has been a steady $75 per share, a $13 difference below the price at which the shares are currently trading.

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