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Merck nears $1.3 billion cash deal for eye-drug company EyeBio, WSJ reports

(Reuters) — Merck & Co is nearing a $1.3 billion cash deal to buy ophthalmology biotechnology company Eyebiotech in an agreement that could see an additional $1.7 billion in milestone payments, the Wall Street Journal reported on Tuesday.

The deal could be announced as early as Wednesday, the report said, citing people familiar with the matter.

Merck did not immediately respond to Reuters' request for a comment, while Eyebiotech declined to comment.

Eyebiotech is a clinical stage opthalmology company with operations in the US and the UK that seeks to treat patients with sight-threatening diseases.

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Its major drug in clinical stage, Restoret, aims to treat retinal diseases characterized by leakage that can lead to impaired vision.

Merck said in February it was in the market for deals of up to around $15 billion as it plans ways to deal with a loss of revenue from its aging cancer immunotherapy Keytruda, the world's top-selling prescription medicine.

Keytruda generated $25 billion in 2023 sales and is forecast to top $30 billion in sales by 2026. However, the drug is set to lose its patent protection by the end of the decade.

(Reporting by Kanjyik Ghosh; Editing by Subhranshu Sahu and Sherry Jacob-Phillips)