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Merck to Acquire Sirna Therapeutics

Merck is buying Sirna Therapeutics at $13 per share in cash for a total of some $1.1 billion.Merck (NYSE: MRK) is buying Sirna Therapeutics (NASDAQ: RNAI) at $13 per share in cash for a total of some $1.1 billion. Shares of the Whitehouse Station-based pharmaceutical company were down $0.06 to $45.58 in morning trading.

Sirna will be a wholly owned subsidiary of Merck. Sirna is a clinical-stage biotechnology company focusing on a class of medicines that is based on RNA interference (RNAi) technology. The company is developing RNAi-based therapies for diseases and conditions including age-related macular degeneration, hepatitis C and asthma.

RNAi also has potential in cancer research, according to Merck. “RNAi is a powerful enabler of drug discovery in cells, in animals and in humans. We can potentially use this technology to target the activity of genes which control the activity of cancer cells, and so produce their destruction without damaging normal cells,” said Stephen Friend, executive vice president and franchise head of oncology and neuroscience at Merck Research Laboratories.

Sirna stockholders who own about 36 percent of the company”s outstanding shares support the transaction and have entered into voting agreements. The acquisition is subject to approval from regulators and Sirna stockholders. The deal is expected to close in the first quarter of 2007.

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