Matt Herper Notes That Dr. Perlmutter’s Boldness (While At Amgen) May Now Benefit Merck

Matt Herper, writing over at Forbes, offers a very cogent window into what will likely turn out to be a very smart move by New Merck CEO Ken Frazier, in bringing Dr. Roger Perlmutter back to Whitehouse Station. It seems one of Perlmutter’s boldest bio-tech bets while at Thousand Oaks is about to pay off, large, in the melanoma arena. Perlmutter led the team that evaluated the purchase (by Amgen) of BioVex, in 2010-2011.

He was very thorough in his diligence — and still made the bold move to acquire that company’s talimogene laherparepvec “payload” program (housed in a genetically-modified herpes simplex type 1 virus “carrier”) — for over a billion dollars.

Do go read all of Matt’s piece, but here is a bit:

. . . .Amgen purchased the company that developed the virus, Biovex, in 2011 for $425 million in cash and a commitment to pay up to $575 million if Biovex’s medicines hit certain milestones. If the Biovex anti-cancer virus is indeed a potent cancer fighter, it could help get investors excited about Amgen. It might also benefit Merck, because Amgen’s former research chief, Roger Perlmutter, has just agreed to take over running the research labs there, and this might reflect on his ability to make smart acquisitions.

In an interview in 2011, Perlmutter praised the Biovex researcher who had developed the virus. “Robert Coffin has done a really good job of developing this particular oncolytic virus,” he said. He told me that “you can’t doubt that the administration of the virus is having an effect” — I was skeptical — and promised “we kicked the tires on this very hard. . . .”

This kind of measured yet bold risk-taking may be just what the doctor ordered — for the new Whitehouse Station.


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