Merck to lay off 170 Acceleron employees following $11B deal

March 31, 2022

Merck will let go of 170 employees at Acceleron Pharma, following an acquisition deal valued at $11.5 billion.

The pharma giant issued a Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act (WARN) notice to 170 Acceleron employees.The departures won’t happen all at once — instead, employees will leave in phases, beginning November 18, 2022.

When Merck acquired Massachusetts-based Acceleron back in November 2021, the company offered Acceleron employees either a full-time job or an offer to stay on for a limited time to “support the integration.” Merck, headquartered in New Jersey, said it had handed out over 160 job offers since the acquisition and 75% of those offers have been accepted.

“These acquisitions are in alignment with our overall strategy of integrating the two companies,” a Merck spokesperson said. “Currently, there are no further plans for company-wide restructuring or layoffs.”

Merck’s purchase of Acceleron made big waves in the pharma world. The deal came as Merck tries to raise its profile in the rare disease sphere. One pathway comes via Acceleron’s development of a drug called sotatercept for pulmonary arterial hypertension (PAH), a rare condition caused by high pressure in blood vessels that impact the lungs.

Sotatercept sales could peak around $2 to $3 billion if it hits the market. Merck will also pick up Reblozyl, a drug approved to treat anemia that generated over $551 million in sales in 2021. 

The merger transition has been somewhat of a bumpy road. Some Acceleron investors, like Farallon Capital Management, opposed the $11.5 billion buyout, saying it undervalued the company and was less than previous offers. Others, including Avoro Capital Advisors, which owns about 7% of Acceleron; Darwin Global Management, which owns about 3.8%; and Holocene Advisors which owns about 1.4%; opposed the deal.