Merck inks several hundred deals a year, with about 50 of them being what Nicholson terms "significant." Recent notable examples include a biosimilar pact with South Korea's Hanwha Chemical; a marketing deal with Roche on the newly-approved hepatitis C drug boceprevir; the buyout of ophthalmology specialist Inspire Pharmaceuticals; and a much-talked-about deal with Massachusetts-based SmartCells, which is developing new insulin technology.
"Merck's experiences with academia has shown a shift toward a more collaborative approach. We are now starting to have a better, more mutual understanding of how to value assets from academic laboratories," Nicholson tells FierceBiotech. "I believe that with the Merck scouting network we are doing a better job in explaining our needs to colleagues in academia."
As with most Big Pharma companies, Merck recognizes that smart licensing is critical to its survival. "Being effective in external world is going to be important to us," Nicholson concludes. "The majority of the science is 'out there,' not in Merck's labs. Our goal is to work in a more symbiotic way with academics and biotechs."