Merck (MSD) has recently closed two different deals to strengthen its position in the oncology and antibiotics segments, respectively. The US-based big pharma has acquired the Swiss privately held biotechnology company OncoEthix, focused in oncology drug development. Its main investigational product is OTX015, a novel oral BET (bromodomain) inhibitor currently in Phase Ib studies for the treatment of hematological malignancies and advanced solid tumors.

BET proteins play a pivotal role in regulating the transcription of key regulators of cancer cell growth and survival. An international, open-label phase I study evaluating OTX015 in five different solid tumors was initiated in November 2014.

Upfront payment has been established up to $110 million, according to Merck. Additional milestone payments of up to $265 million are contingent the achievement of clinical and regulatory endpoints.

The second acquisition involves antibiotic specialist Cubist Pharmaceuticals, for a total sum of $8.4 billions. Cubist, founded in 1992, is one of the few companies active in the research and development of new antibiotic treatments. Its more advanced product is daptomycin (for injection), already approved for complicated skin and skin structure infections caused by certain bacteria and in Staphylococcus aureus infections of the bloodstream. The company plans to launch several new antibiotic drugs by 2020.