Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany has announced that it has signed a definitive agreement to purchase Exelead (Indianapolis), a biopharma contract development and manufacturing organization (CDMO). Not to be confused with the similarly named Merck & Co., the German company will pay roughly $780 million in the acquisition.
Exelead specializes in creating lipid nanoparticle and pegylated formulations. Exelead has fared well during the pandemic. mRNA-based therapies are in high demand, and Pfizer tapped the company to help make its COVID-19 vaccine. (Additionally, Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany has supplied lipids to bolster Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine production.)
“Novel modalities, particularly mRNA, present a highly attractive business opportunity as pharma and biotech pipelines are increasingly building on them beyond COVID-19,” said Belén Garijo, CEO of Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany in a press release.
The acquisition of Exelead will allow the company to expand its service related to the development of mRNA therapies.
Drug developers are moving quickly to expand mRNA therapeutics beyond COVID-19 vaccines. Recently, Moderna has announced that it has an mRNA-based Epstein-Barr vaccine candidate in a Phase 1 study and a cytomegalovirus candidate in a Phase 3 trial. Similarly, Pfizer and BioNTech are developing an mRNA-based shingles vaccine.
A year ago, Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany also acquired AmpTec, a German mRNA CDMO.
The company anticipates that the acquisition of Exelead will close in the first quarter of the year.