Merck paying $394M for Australian oncology firm

Merck has signed a definitive agreement to acquire an Australian company focused on immunotherapy treatments for a range of cancers, the two pharmaceutical firms announced Wednesday.

Merck, known as MSD outside the United States, will pay approximately $394 million in cash for Viralytics Ltd., based in Sydney, in the form of 1.75 Australian dollars per share.

Upon completion of the deal, Viralytics will become a wholly-owned subsidiary of Merck, giving the Kenilworth-based drugmaker the rights to the Cavatak investigational oncolytic immunotherapy. Cavatak is currently in multiple clinical trials, including in combination with Merck’s Keytruda therapy.

“Viralytics’ approach of engaging the innate immune system to target and kill cancer cells complements our immune-oncology strategy, which is focused on the rapid advancement of innovative monotherapy approaches and synergistic combinations to help the broadest range of cancer patients,” Dr. Roy Baynes, senior vice president and head of global clinical development, chief medical officer, Merck Research Laboratories, said in a prepared statement. “We are eager to further build on Viralytics’ science as we continue our efforts to harness the immune system to improve long-term disease control and survival outcomes for people with cancer.”

The transaction is scheduled to be implemented in the second quarter, pending customary approvals.

Credit Suisse Securities (USA) LLC is serving as Merck’s financial adviser, while Baker & McKenzie is serving as its legal counsel. Lazard is serving as financial adviser to Viralytics, while McCullough Robertson is serving as legal counsel.