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Merck’s $1.1 Billion Bet on RNAi

By Kevin Davies

Nov. 15, 2006 | As if the 2006 Nobel Prize in Medicine or Physiology wasn’t validation enough, Merck’s acquisition of biotech firm Sirna for $1.1 billion last month offered resounding evidence of the commercial implications of RNA interference (RNAi) gene-silencing technology. Merck’s offer of $13 per share was a roughly 100 percent premium on Sirna’s pre-acquisition share price.

Merck president Peter Kim said: “We believe that RNAi could significantly change the way in which we go about discovering and developing drugs, and could become a new way to treat patients with unmet medical needs.”

Sirna emerged in 2003 from the former Ribozyme Pharmaceuticals, and along with Alnylam, was the highest profile US-based RNAi biotech company (see “Running Interference”, Bio-IT World, December 2004). Last year, Sirna launched the first RNAi clinical trial for age-related macular degeneration, but a drug remains years away.


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