This is probably net-net, good news for Merck, as it avoids perhaps $480 million of additional development costs — in an already crowded field. [My July 2009 background on the original deal is here.]
Under the original Portola deal, Merck would have worked to develop betrixaban as an oral, once-daily blood thinner — and, it was hoped, to start to supplant the older standard in this arena, wafarin. Merck had agreed to fund all the costs of development for Portola, as well as a $50 million upfront payment. That $50 million is gone; but there are other next-gen wafarin replacements that are likely to beat Portola’s Factor Xa candidate to market.
Here’s a bit of the BusinessWires story:
. . . .Portola Pharmaceuticals and Merck. . . today announced that Merck plans to return to Portola all rights for betrixaban, an investigational oral Factor Xa inhibitor anticoagulant being evaluated for the prevention of stroke in patients with atrial fibrillation (SPAF). This decision was made following a review of Merck’s investigational portfolio. . . .
So ends another pipeline project for Merck.