Merck CEO Rob Davis has business development on his mind as he builds the ‘pipeline of the future’ – Endpoints News

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Does Merck have everything it needs for a successful pipeline? In short, no, CEO Rob Davis told investors and analysts on the company’s third-quarter call Thursday. But he has his eye on “a list of potential places to play” when it comes to mergers and acquisitions.

The chief executive took a moment during the Q&A session to highlight Merck’s business development plans, which may or may not include Seagen after takeover talks were reportedly stalled in August over the price. Davis was short on specifics, vaguely admitting that “our business development urgency hasn’t changed.”

“We continue to frankly see a portfolio of opportunities that appeal to us,” Davis said. “This is our priority, as we continue to believe that the best thing we can do for long-term value creation is to invest in the sustainability of our business, which invests in the pipeline of the future.”

However, as CFO Caroline Litchfield added, “We will only act when science and value align.”

Caroline Litchfield

The news comes as Keytruda’s sales exceeded $5.4 billion last quarter, up 20% from the third quarter of 2021. Merck is doubling down on the immuno-oncology blockbuster – which is facing a cliff patent in 2028 — dumping $250 million earlier this month to advance a Keytruda combo with one of Moderna’s personalized cancer vaccines. Merck Research Laboratories President Dean Li previously expressed hope that the drug will guide Merck to become the leader in oncology by 2025, and the Moderna partnership and ongoing study of a subcutaneous version should help push it into earlier treatment lines, he said on the Q3 call. .

Keytruda’s numbers more than offset Lagevrio’s sales, which fell from $1.2 billion in the second quarter to just $436 million in the last quarter. According HHS Tracker. Of approximately 2.5 million doses of Lagevrio issued, just under 759,000 were administered, compared to 8.3 million doses of Paxlovid issued and 5.4 million administered.

Meanwhile, Davis touted the launch of its 15-valent pneumococcal conjugate vaccine Vaxneuvance in the pediatric setting after winning approval in June. The vaccine was first approved for adults in July 2021, but by then Pfizer had beaten it to the punch with its own 20-strain vaccine.

Dean Li

When asked how Merck plans to compete against competitors like Pfizer, Li said, “Our view is that more serotypes is not always better, and one size does not fit all. It’s the right drug, or in this case the right vaccine, for the right patient at the right time.

Davis added on the call that Merck is progressing a Phase III trial of its 21-valent candidate, V116, in adults – “an important part of our population-specific approach to invasive pneumococcal disease and a part of our broader efforts to provide robust protection for infants and adults,” he said.

Sales of Pneumovax 23, Merck’s pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine (PPSV) approved in 1982, fell 53% this quarter to $131 million, Merck reported, reflecting lower demand as the market turns to new vaccines. PPSV vaccines have demonstrated poor performance in young children, leading scientists to develop updated conjugate vaccines, such as Pfizer’s Vaxneuvance and Prevnar.

Sales of Gardasil vaccines made up for that loss, hitting $2.3 billion last quarter, up 15% on strong demand in China. As global vaccination levels remain low, Merck said it has invested in manufacturing capacity to handle an expected surge in demand “now and for the long term”.

Overall, Merck raised $15 billion last quarter, up 14% from a year ago. Company shares $MRK was up 2% on Thursday afternoon.

While Davis plans to take on the role of chairman, succeeding former CEO Ken Frazier, he said the company has come a long way in the past year.

“Do I think we have everything we need? No,” he said. “But do I think we have made great progress in a year? I actually think so. And that gives me confidence that we’re going to keep pushing things forward.

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