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Merck to buy Cambridge rare-disease specialist Acceleron for $11.5 billion

Merck corporate headquarters in Kenilworth, N.J. Merck is buying Acceleron Pharma in a deal worth about $11.5 billion.Seth Wenig/Associated Press

(Bloomberg) -- Merck & Co. agreed to buy Acceleron Pharma Inc. for about $11.5 billion, building out its portfolio of therapies to treat rare diseases.

Acceleron shareholders will get $180 a share in cash, a 34% premium over the price at the end of last month but below the stock’s intraday highs this week. The shares began soaring in mid-September, and Bloomberg reported Sept. 24 that the company was in advanced sale talks.

The deal is expected to close in the fourth quarter. Merck plans to hold a call with investors this morning, the companies said in a statement. Merck rose 1% in premarket trading in New York.


Merck is among several companies that have been on the hunt for future blockbuster drugs through acquisitions, including Sanofi, Pfizer Inc., Amgen Inc., Gilead Sciences Inc. and Roche Holding AG. Earlier this year AstraZeneca Plc bought rare-disease specialist Alexion Pharmaceuticals Inc. in a $39 billion mega-deal as the U.K. drugmaker pushes into a lucrative new area of medicine.

“Strategic business development is a top priority for Merck as we look to drive sustainable growth and further bolster and balance our pipeline with breakthrough science,” said Rob Davis, chief executive officer and president of Merck, in the statement. He said Acceleron’s research will strengthen Merck’s growing cardiovascular portfolio and pipeline.

Cambridge-based Acceleron’s pipeline focuses on a particular type of protein that plays a central role in the regulation of cell growth, differentiation and repair. The company’s main candidate is a pulmonary arterial hypertension drug called Sotatercept which is in late-stage development. Acceleron’s portfolio also includes Reblozyl, a treatment for anemia in certain rare blood disorders approved in the U.S., Europe, Canada and Australia. Public since 2013, the company’s shares had climbed about 56% in the past 12 months.

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