NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) — Merck today said it plans to acquire RNAi drug developer Sirna Therapeutics for around $1.1 billion in cash.
The deal is noteworthy for RNAi technology companies because Sirna, through principally a drug-discovery company, has said in the past that it would license its IP. It is not clear whether they have to date, or whether the Merck acquisition will help or hinder this goal.
Terms of the acquisition call for Merck to buy all of Sirna’s stock at $13 per share — which is more than double what the stock closed yesterday on the Nasdaq exchange. The last time Sirna’s shares reached $13 was in April 2002.
The deal will make Sirna a wholly owned subsidiary of Merck.
In 2003 Sirna licensed RNAi technology owned by the University of Massachusetts Medical School that covers one of the two international Tuschl patent applications covering the use of siRNAs to silence genes in mammals.
As GenomeWeb News sister publication RNAi News reported at the time, the deal gave Sirna an important piece of the RNAi patent puzzle. Sirna president and CEO Howard Robin said at the time hat the deal gives his company exclusive control over the IP but specifies that Sirna negotiate sublicenses to the technology at “commercially reasonable terms” and share the proceeds with UMass.
"We believe that RNAi could significantly change the way in which we go about discovering and developing drugs, and could become a new way to treat patients with unmet medical needs,” Peter Kim, president of Merck Research Laboratories, said in a statement today.
For Merck, the acquisition complements the RNA-expression research that it has been doing since 2001 when it acquired Rosetta Inpharmatics.
The companies expect the deal to close during the first quarter of 2007.