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Merck & Co is buying Acceleron Pharma Inc for about $11.5-billion, broadening its portfolio beyond aging cancer drug Keytruda with potential treatments that could bring in fresh revenue.

The deal gives Merck access to Acceleron’s rare disease drug candidate, sotatercept, which the company expects to be a multi-billion dollar peak sales opportunity, and comes as Keytruda moves toward the loss of market exclusivity in 2028.

The lung cancer treatment accounted for 36.7 per cent, or $4.18-billion, of Merck’s total sales in the second quarter.

Sotatercept is currently in a late-stage study, testing it as a treatment for a rare cardiovascular disease called pulmonary arterial hypertension (PAH), a type of high blood pressure that affects blood vessels in the lungs. Merck sees PAH as a roughly $7.5-billion market by 2026.

The drugmaker will pay $180 per Acceleron share in cash, representing a premium of about 2.6 per cent to the stock’s closing price on Wednesday, according to Refinitiv data.

Although the Acceleron deal will not fully remove the overhang of generic competition for Keytruda, it does help diversify sales, which addresses a large shareholder concern, Cantor Fitzgerald analyst Louise Chen wrote in a client note.

Merck is targeting a U.S. launch for sotatercept in 2024-2025 and its market exclusivity for PAH is expected to extend through 2036-2037.

The deal also adds the FDA-approved blood-related disorder drug, Reblozyl – which Acceleron markets with partner Bristol Myers Squibb – to Merck’s portfolio..

The transaction is expected to close in the fourth quarter.

Merck’s shares were up 1.2 per cent at $75.96.

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