Merck to buy diabetes drug developer SmartCells in a $500 million-plus deal

US drug giant Merck & Co, yesterday aanounced a deal to buy privately held developer of a glucose responsive insulin formulation for the treatment of diabetes mellitus, SmartCells Inc, in a $500 million-plus deal.

Under the terms of the agreement, New Jersey-based Merck, the world's second-largest drug maker after Pfizer will acquire all outstanding stock of SmartCells, and in return SmartCells will receive an upfront cash payment and be eligible to receive in excess of $500 million more for clinical development and regulatory milestones for products resulting from the transaction.

Merck said that it will also pay sales-based payments for products resulting from the transaction.

SmartCells is focused on developing glucose-regulated SmartInsulin products for the treatment of diabetes. The company's core technology was originally developed at The Massachusetts Institute of Technology by its president, co-founder and chief executive officer Dr. Todd Zion.

Massachusetts-based SmartCells has developed a technology platform that makes it possible to auto-regulate the release of a therapeutic based on the plasma concentration of a designated molecular indicator.

It has transformed the platform into several clinical candidates with the support of grant awards from the National Institutes of Health and equity investments from investors in the healthcare industry like Boston Harbor Angels, Angel Healthcare Investors, Beacon Angels and Cherrystone Angel Group.