Merck Licensing Chief — Off The Cuff, At JP Morgan Conference — Too Optimistic, On Hep C Prospects?


Roger Pomerantz, the guy in charge of in-licensing at Whitehouse Station, just told a Bloomberg reporter that he expects Merck will be a Hep C leader. And Merck’s stock just opened — up.

The wrinkle in the rosy statement is that Merck is still losing the current battle, at least 80%-20%, to the more effective Vertex treatment, anchored by its Incivek® (see graphic, at right) combo-therapy. For what it’s worth, here’s the Bloomberg quote:

. . . .”Our goal is to be a leader in hepatitis C, and we will do what it takes to get there,” Pomerantz said in an interview at the J.P. Morgan Healthcare Conference in San Francisco. “We would consider small deals to large deals, whatever is necessary to lead in hepatitis. . . .”

So Merck is clearly signaling that it might buy its way into a future leadership position. However, given the spate of recently very pricey Hep C candidate acquisitions, there is a reasonable probability Pomerantz will get caught. . . overpaying.

[Schering-Plough, anyone? Merck’s Hep C treatment is anchored by a second-in-class legacy Schering-Plough candidate, boceprevir — branded as Victrelis®.

More to come, tonight, after CEO Frazier makes his formal JP Morgan presentation.] In any event, for at least the next three to four years, I think the lead is clearly Vertex’s — to lose. Again, it is my opinion that a price of $40 for Merck seems too high, given all that is presently known (and unknown).

Your mileage may vary. In fact, it probably does.

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