Merck & Co has been touting its late-stage pipeline to the investment community at an R&D and business briefing in New Jersey.

The US drugs giant says that it has 19 candidates in Phase III and plans to submit eight new filings across the Atlantic in 2012-2013. These include five new drugs, namely Tredaptive (extended-release niacin/laropiprant) for atherosclerosis, suvorexant for insomnia, the osteoporosis treatment odanacatib, a cervical cancer vaccine called V503 and Bridion (sugammadex), for the reversal of neuromuscular blockade.

In addition, the company highlighted six drugs further back in the pipeline, "which have the potential to transform medical care." These include anacetrapib, a novel reversible and selective cholesteryl ester transfer protein inhibitor being investigated in a large Phase III for atherosclerosis.

MK-3102 is a novel, once-weekly oral dipeptidyl peptidase-4 (DPP-4) inhibitor candidate for type 2 diabetes, which has shown greater than 80% inhibition of DPP-4 for seven days. It will enter Phase III in 2012.

V212 is a vaccine in Phase III for the prevention of shingles, while MK-3222 is an anti-interleukin-23 monoclonal antibody for psoriasis which will go into Phase III clinical trials in 2012. Merck also gave special mention to MK-8931, a BACE1 inhibitor being investigated for Alzheimer's disease. It will go into Phase II next year.

The company also added that its Merck BioVentures unit "has established strong development and manufacturing collaborations and continues to make good progress in advancing its biosimilars portfolio". The firm says it will "strategically advance into Phase III for specific opportunities where the company can be a first mover upon patent expiry of the originator product".

Dividend raised

Chief executive Kenneth Frazier (pictured) also announced that Merck's quarterly dividend has been raised 11% to $0.42 per share, the first such rise in seven years. He added that "we are focused on making the right investment decisions across our business while continuing to advance and augment our late-stage pipeline".