updated 5/9/2006 3:19:51 PM ET 2006-05-09T19:19:51

Merck and Co. is spending nearly $500 million to buy two smaller research companies, the New Jersey-based drug giant announced Tuesday.

The acquisitions of Lebanon, N.H.-based GlycoFi Inc. and Santa Clara, Calif.-based Abmaxis Inc., are both expected to close by the end of June.

The purchase announcements come two weeks after Chief Executive Richard T. Clark promised shareholders big changes to a pharmaceutical giant wounded in litigation over heart problems caused by its pain medication, Vioxx.

Merck officials say the deals will make the company a bigger player in the growing field of biologic drugs, which are made from living organisms such as yeast.

GlycoFi, a privately held biotechnology company, will cost Merck $400 million in cash; the price tag for Abmaxis, a privately held biopharmaceutical firm, is $80 million.

Merck previously had deals with both firms to develop or improve drugs.

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