Monday, March 09, 2009

Merck to buy Schering-Plough!

MarketWatch reports: Pharmaceutical giant Merck & Co., Inc on March 9 said it will buy rival Schering-Plough for $41.1 billion in cash and shares to expand its presence in emerging markets and bolster its pipeline of potential new medicines.
The two companies, which announced significant job cuts last fall, already are partners on the cholesterol drugs Zetia and Vytorin. But sales of the drugs fell more than 20% in the fourth quarter on concerns about their effectiveness.

Merck Chief Executive Richard Clark saidthat Schering-Plough's "considerable biologics expertise" would complement Merck's novel proprietary biologics presence to create the best pipeline in the industry. The tie-up will double the number of potential drugs Merck has in Phase III development to 18.

Merck is headquartered at Whitehouse Station in NJ, and Schering-Plough is in nearby Union County.


AP reported:

Obama was to sign an executive order on stem cells and memo on science March 9 in an East Room ceremony, a long-promised move that would fulfill a campaign promise. Advisers said it was part of a broader declaration on science that would guide the administration's policies on matters ranging from renewable energy to climate change.

"I would simply say this memorandum is not concerned solely — or even specifically — with stem cell research," said Harold Varmus, chairman of the White House's Council of Advisers on Science and Technology. He said it would address how the government uses science and who is advising officials across federal agencies.

AP did note:

The proposed changes do not fund creation of new lines, nor specify which existing lines can be used. They mean that scientists, who until now have had to rely on private donations to work with these newer stem cell lines, can apply for government money for the research, just like they do for studies of gene therapy or other treatment approaches.

IPBiz notes that, outside the US, where there were no funding limitations, little to no progress was made toward the realization
of Hwang Woo Suk's (false) claim to human SCNT. Further, in the US, stem cell researchers were quick to accept Hwang's false claims, which were published in the US journal Science, twice. It was Korean researchers who exposed the Hwang fraud.

The AP story did get into priorities:

Rep. Eric Cantor, the No. 2 Republican in the House, said the focus should be on the economy, not on a long-simmering debate over stem cells.

"Frankly, federal funding of embryonic stem cell research can bring on embryo harvesting, perhaps even human cloning that occurs," he said Sunday on CNN's "State of the Union." "We don't want that. ... And certainly that is something that we ought to be talking about, but let's take care of business first. People are out of jobs."

What the AP story did NOT mention was the existence of the Dickey-Wicker amendment. Californiastemcellreport talked about an article in the NYT, titled Obama Is Leaving Some Stem Cell Issues to Congress:

Stolberg wrote about a legal prohibition that is generally subsumed in mainstream media reports on hESC research. She said,

“The ban, known as the Dickey-Wicker amendment, first became law in 1996, and has been renewed by Congress every year since. It specifically bans the use of tax dollars to create human embryos — a practice that is routine in private fertility clinics — or for research in which embryos are destroyed, discarded or knowingly subjected to risk of injury."

Stolberg continued,
“Mr. Obama has not taken a position on the ban and does not intend to, Melody C. Barnes, his chief domestic policy adviser, said Sunday. The president believes stem cell research 'should be done in compliance with federal law,' she said, adding that Mr. Obama recognizes the divisiveness of the issue.

“'We are committed to pursuing stem cell research quite responsibly but we recognize there are a range of beliefs on this,' Ms. Barnes said.”
Stolberg wrote,
“A senior House Democratic leadership aide, who was not authorized to speak publicly about the issue, said overturning the ban 'would be difficult, but not impossible,' adding, 'It’s not something that we would do right away, but it’s something that we would look at.”

The NYT article had a New Jersey touch:

One Republican lawmaker, Representative Christopher H. Smith of New Jersey, is calling Mr. Obama “the abortion president,” and is planning his own event on Monday to protest Mr. Obama’s new stem cell policy.

Mr. Smith said in an interview Sunday that he did not think lawmakers would go along with overturning the embryo experiment ban.

“I don’t think it will fly because the movement in the country is in favor of life,” he said. “For Congress to say that the new guinea pig will be human embryos, most Americans will find that highly offensive.”

New Jersey voters rejected a bond issue which would have provided funding for stem cell research. It does get back to the fragile state of the economy.


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