Merck Investment Vehicle Now Holds Well-Over 10 Per Cent Of OpGen Inc. (With A Cubicin® Gram-Negative Connect)?

This afternoon, Merck updated its SEC ownership disclosures — of another of its public company investments (nominally held via its Global Health Innovation Fund, LLC). Merck affiliates now own — and/or hold rights to acquire — well over 10 per cent of this public company. OpGen bills itself as “a precision medicine company that uses molecular diagnostics and informatics to combat infectious disease.” The latest acquisition of rights in OpGen occurred just last Thursday, May 19, 2016. But Merck has had an investment here since before July of 2015.

I strongly suspect that Merck seeks a continued pipeline of information about (and likely eventual license rights to) this company’s rapid (just over 30 minute) diagnostics tests, especially as to so-called Gram negative organisms — like those Merck’s Cubicin®, or daptomycin as a chemical name (itself a late 2014 acquisition by Kenilworth) is designed to knock-out. With Cubicin likely subject to generic incursions (due to various patent spats) beginning in July of 2016 — might this rapid testing protocol eventually be linked to the branded offering, to contiune to keep the branded Cubicin at the fore-front, in US hospital deployments? We shall see.

In any event, the text from OpGen’s latest SEC Form 10-K, which accompanies the graphic in the lower portion, at right — is as follows:

. . . .Our suite of DNA-based products and products in development are intended to provide actionable, precise diagnostics powered by microbial surveillance data. The high resolution Acuitas DNA tests use multiplex PCR to help provide reliable and accurate detection of drug resistance. The QuickFISH tests are powered by PNA technology and provide rapid pathogen ID, typically in less than 30 minutes from a positive blood culture result. The Acuitas MDRO Gene Test is used for determining if ICU patients are colonized with MDROs. Positive samples are confirmed using microbiological methods and the Acuitas Resistome™ test for high resolution genotyping. Test results are maintained in the Acuitas Lighthouse™ data warehouse for subsequent interpretation by physicians and healthcare providers.

We are developing a new disruptive one-hour-testing paradigm that we believe could help address many of the current issues with testing for antibiotic resistance. Results from a new high resolution Acuitas DNA test designed to detect the key resistome profiles of Gram negative organisms will be informed by a smart cloud based clinical database that will provide molecular profiles to aid initial antibiotic selection and clinical decision making. Our proprietary Acuitas Lighthouse profiles distill large amounts of data into one actionable profile. We believe our disruptive approach will be globally applicable and could be an important new weapon in the fight against drug-resistant bacteria. The figure below describes the potential workflow and anticipated results from our new testing approach. . . .

So, yes, I think this OpGen stake/investment dovetails nicely with the Merck-acquired Cubicin franchises (and continued penetration plans for the same). Off to a board meeting and a workout, now. Namaste, one and all. . . .

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