Germany’s Merck Buys US CDMO Exelead

10.01.2022 - Germany’s Merck has signed a definitive agreement to acquire Exelead, a US biopharmaceutical CDMO, for around $780 million in cash. The Indianapolis, Indiana-based company specializes in complex injectable formulations, including Lipid Nanoparticle (LNP)-based drug delivery technology, which is key to mRNA therapeutics and vaccines for indications such as Covid-19.

The transaction is expected to complete in this year’s second quarter, subject to regulatory clearance and other usual closing conditions. Financial terms were not disclosed.

Explaining the rationale behind the purchase, Merck CEO Belén Garijo said that new modalities, particularly mRNA, present a highly attractive business opportunity as pharma and biotech pipelines are increasingly building on them. The acquisition of Exelead, she noted, will further allow Merck to capture the significant potential of the fast-growing market for mRNA therapies by providing leading CDMO services to its customers.

Additionally, Matthias Heinzel, member of Merck’s executive board and CEO Life Science, explained that the addition of Exelead’s capabilities and expertise will strengthen the Darmstadt-based company’s presence as a CDMO working with mRNA by integrating its offering across the manufacturing process. This, he said, will significantly decrease supply chain complexity and enhance speed-to-market. 

Exelead has 200 employees and more than ten years of experience in all phases, from pre-clinical development to commercial contract manufacturing for LNP formulations, including fill & finish. With Merck’s long-established expertise in the biopharmaceutical industry, the company will now be in a better position to fill the needs of customers and patients as well as further strengthen its “renowned technological know-how and unique expertise,” CEO John Rigg said. Merck has said it plans to scale up this technology at the acquired Indianapolis facility.

The German pharmaceuticals and life sciences player regards the US acquisition as another milestone in its drive to accelerate innovation in its Process Solutions business unit – one of its three growth engines – through targeted small to medium-sized acquisitions with high impact. In 2021, Merck acquired AmpTec, an mRNA-focused CDMO based in Hamburg, Germany, and scaled up technology there.

With AmpTec, Merck also gained a diagnostics business focused on producing customized long RNAs and DNAs for in-vitro diagnostics.

Author: Dede Williams, Freelance Journalist