Pharma

Merck plans to drop up to $3b to acquire eye disease drugmaker

The pharma giant is seeking new revenue streams before Keytruda loses patent exclusivity.
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Merck is dropping up to $3 billion to acquire EyeBio, a drug company specializing in eye disease treatments.

The move comes as Merck—one of the largest pharma companies in the world—seeks to diversify its portfolio and make up for an anticipated drop in revenue from its blockbuster drug Keytruda, a cancer-treating drug, which loses patent exclusivity in 2028. Keytruda single-handedly brought in $25 billion in 2023, representing more than 40% of Merck’s global drug sales.

“We continue to execute on our science-led business development strategy to expand and diversify our pipeline,” Dean Y. Li, EVP and president of Merck Research Laboratories, said in a statement announcing the acquisition. “The EyeBio team, under the leadership of Dr. David Guyer and Dr. Tony Adamis, has a strong track record of developing groundbreaking ophthalmology therapies. By combining our strengths, we aim to advance with rigor and speed the development of their promising pipeline of candidates targeting retinal diseases.”

Merck will pay EyeBio $1.3 billion up front and up to $1.7 billion more in milestone payments.

Merck has made a number of multibillion-dollar biotech acquisitions in recent years, spending $11.5 billion to scoop up Acceleron Pharma in 2021 and $10.8 billion to purchase Prometheus Biosciences in 2023.

EyeBio began operating in 2022 following a $65 million Series A financing round that Merck participated in. EyeBio’s top drug is Restoret, which is designed to treat eye diseases including wet age-related macular degeneration, or wet AMD, the Wall Street Journal reported. Wet AMD is a hot market that drugmakers are eager to tap into, according to the Journal.

Other pharma companies, including Regeneron Pharmaceuticals and Roche, have brought in big bucks from wet AMD drugs. Regeneron’s Eylea brought in $5.9 billion globally in 2023, and Roche’s Vabysmo brought in $2.6 billion globally during the same time period.

Navigate the healthcare industry

Healthcare Brew covers pharmaceutical developments, health startups, the latest tech, and how it impacts hospitals and providers to keep administrators and providers informed.