Just last September, Kenneth Frazier’s Merck finally got its long-awaited immuno-oncology drug, Keytruda, approved by the Federal Drug Administration.
Just a few months later, the pharmaceutical company is doubling down on its new area of focus.
On Wednesday, the company announced that it had reached an agreement to acquire Viralytics, an Australian biotech company for $394 million, which is in line with the drug maker’s focus on cancer immunotherapy.
Frazier told Black Enterprise magazine in 2014 about his company’s big plans to create transformational medicines with the company’s foyer into new investigational medicine for cancer.
“It’s one of the first in a series of what are called immunotherapies for cancer. This medicine is one that actually uses the bodies’ own natural defenses to defeat the tumors,” Frazier said. “That’s the kind of thing that a company like Merck exists to do.”
This comes on the cusp of Frazier’s interview with the New York Times about his public spat with President Donald Trump.
Frazier gave up his seat on the president’s American Manufacturing Council after controversy erupted over how President Trump handled the racist-fueled violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, last summer.
“It was my view that to not take a stand on this would be viewed as a tacit endorsement of what had happened and what was said,” Frazier told the New York Times. “I think words have consequences, and I think actions have consequences. I just felt that as a matter of my own personal conscience, I could not remain.”
Frazier said he consulted Merck’s board before he made his decision to resign from the president’s manufacturing council.
“I wanted to say that this was a statement I was making in terms of my own values, and the company’s values, and there was unanimous support for that,” he said. “My board supported that 100%.”
President Trump was quick to hit back on Twitter.
Although meant as a gibe toward Frazier, it is no secret that Merck has been working incredibly hard to bring Keytruda, the company’s own breakthrough immuno-oncology treatment drug to market.
In 2014, Merck acquired Idenix, another drug therapy for hepatitis C which had been a focal point of the drug makers. However, Merck’s patent of the drug was ruled invalid by a U.S. District Judge in Wilmington, Delaware, on Feb. 17, stating that the company did not meet a requirement that it disclose how to make the treatment it covered without undue experimentation, Reuters reported.
The ruling also reverses a $2.54 billion settlement Gilead Sciences Inc. was required to pay after Merck sued the company because its hepatitis C drugs Sovaldi and Harvoni infringed on Idenix’s patents.
Watch Black Enterprise’s Derek T. Dingle’s interview with Ken Frazier: