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Merck to buy Acceleron for about $11.5 billion in rare-disease drugs push

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Merck will buy drugmaker Acceleron Pharma for about $11.5 billion, the companies said on Thursday, as the U.S. pharmaceutical giant looks to beef up its portfolio with drugs for rare diseases.

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

Cambridge, Massachusetts-based Acceleron focuses on the discovery, development and commercialization of therapeutics to treat cardiovascular and other blood-related disorders.

The company is developing Sotatercept, which is currently in a late-stage study, to treat a rare cardiovascular disease called pulmonary arterial hypertension (PAH), a type of high blood pressure that affects the lungs.

Rare disease treatments are a lucrative market for drugmakers as they can charge more for these unique drugs. The PAH market is expected to grow at a 5% compound annual growth rate from 2019 to 2029 in the seven major markets, according to GlobalData, a data and analytics company.

In 2017, Johnson & Johnson bought Swiss biotech company Actelion and its pulmonary hypertension drugs in a $30 billion all-cash deal. Merck is also developing a treatment for the indication, which is currently in a mid-stage study. Along with Sotatercept, Merck will gain access to Reblozyl, which is approved for the treatment of two blood-related disorders, including anemia in patients with beta thalassemia.

The transaction is expected to close in the fourth quarter.

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