MSD to acquire EyeBio

Start-up developing new treatment options for patients with retinal diseases

03-Jun-2024

Merck & Co., known as MSD outside of the United States and Canada, and EyeBiotech Limited (EyeBio), a privately held ophthalmology-focused biotechnology company, announced that the companies have entered into a definitive agreement under which Merck, through a subsidiary, will acquire EyeBio. 

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“We continue to execute on our science-led business development strategy to expand and diversify our pipeline,” said Dr. Dean Y. Li, president, Merck Research Laboratories. “The EyeBio team, under the leadership of Dr. David Guyer and Dr. Tony Adamis, has a strong track record of developing groundbreaking ophthalmology therapies. By combining our strengths, we aim to advance with rigor and speed the development of their promising pipeline of candidates targeting retinal diseases.”

Under the terms of the agreement, Merck, through a subsidiary, will acquire all outstanding shares of EyeBio for up to $3 billion, including an upfront payment of $1.3 billion in cash and a further potential $1.7 billion in developmental, regulatory and commercial milestone payments. The acquisition has been unanimously approved by the EyeBio Board of Directors.

EyeBio is developing a pipeline of clinical and preclinical candidates for the prevention and treatment of vision loss associated with retinal vascular leakage, a known risk factor for retinal diseases. The company’s lead candidate, Restoret™ (EYE103), is an investigational, potentially first-in-class tetravalent, tri-specific antibody that acts as an agonist of the Wingless-related integration site (Wnt) signaling pathway. Based on positive results from the open-label Phase 1b/2a AMARONE study in patients with diabetic macular edema (DME) and neovascular age-related macular degeneration (nvAMD), Restoret is anticipated to advance into a pivotal Phase 2b/3 trial to investigate the treatment of patients with DME in the second half of 2024.

“The EyeBio team has successfully assembled a pipeline of novel candidates with the potential to provide new treatment options for patients with retinal disease,” said Dr. David R. Guyer, chief executive officer and president, EyeBio. “As a subsidiary of Merck, EyeBio will be positioned to tap into the resources and infrastructure needed to support the clinical, regulatory and commercial development of these candidates and help bring them to patients worldwide.”

In addition to augmenting Merck’s pipeline, the acquisition significantly expands the company’s presence in ophthalmology. The EyeBio team and leadership including founders Dr. David Guyer and Dr. Tony Adamis will leverage their experience and world-class expertise as part of Merck to continue their pioneering work to advance the clinical development of Restoret and other ongoing development programs.

“Less than three years ago, EyeBio was hatched to translate Dr. David Guyer’s idea for a potential new therapy for retinal diseases into a reality,” said Kate Bingham, EyeBio board chair and managing partner, SV Health Investors. “This agreement reflects the hard work of the talented EyeBio team, led by Dr. Guyer, who through this agreement have placed Restoret on a defined development path to patients.”

Closing of the proposed acquisition is subject to approval under the Hart-Scott-Rodino Antitrust Improvements Act and other customary conditions. The transaction is expected to close in the third quarter of 2024 and be accounted for as an asset acquisition. Merck expects to record a charge of approximately $1.3 billion, or approximately $0.50 per share, that will be included in non-GAAP results in the quarter that the transaction closes.

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