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Mergers & Acquisitions

Merck & Co. to acquire Imago BioSciences

The purchase strengthens Merck’s presence in hematology

by Shi En Kim
November 23, 2022 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 100, Issue 42

Chemical structure of bomedemstat.

It’s not Seagen but another company that Merck & Co. will acquire this year. The pharma giant will pay a total of $1.35 billion for Imago BioSciences.

Merck’s acquisition of Imago strengthens the larger firm’s presence in hematology, says Hugh Y. Rienhoff Jr., Imago’s founder and CEO. Last year, Merck bought Acceleron Pharma for $11.5 billion to obtain the fusion-protein drug sotatercept, which recently aced its Phase 3 trials to treat pulmonary arterial hypertension.

Earlier this year, Merck made plans to snap up Seagen—a purchase that would have been its largest in a decade. But the negotiations reportedly stalled over pricing.

Imago aims to treat blood diseases such as myeloproliferative neoplasms; they are characterized by an overproduction of blood cells, which may result in clots that cause stroke or heart attacks. Imago went public last year.

Its lead asset is bomedemstat, an inhibitor of lysine-specific demethylase 1 (LSD1). LSD1 is an epigenetic protein that regulates the maturation of bone marrow stem cells and their subsequent differentiation. By inhibiting LSD1, bomedemstat restricts the blood cell count and potentially reduces the population of malignant stem cells behind myeloproliferative neoplasms.

“This latest acquisition by Merck is particularly interesting for us,” says Carlos Buesa Arjol, the CEO of Oryzon Genomics. His company is also working on a suite of LSD1 inhibitors for various diseases. “It’s not only a generic endorsement of epigenetics but also a particular endorsement of the LSD1 mechanism of action.”

According to Rienhoff, bomedemstat has a larger molecular weight than other companies’ LSD1 inhibitors. As such, bomedemstat does not cross the blood-brain barrier, a property that he says lowers the drug candidate’s risk profile.

Bomedemstat is in Phase 2 clinical trials for the treatment of the rare blood cancers essential thrombocythemia and polycythemia vera. Imago will reveal the full results of the trials at the American Society of Hematology Annual Meeting in December.



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