Merck KGaA drops $780M to buy biopharma CDMO Exelead, expanding its mRNA reach

Merck KGaA snapped up biopharma CDMO Exelead for $780 million as part of the German pharma giant’s expansion into the quickly growing mRNA therapy market.

Exelead specializes in complex sterile injectable formulations. The CDMO’s formulations include lipid-nanoparticle-based drug tech that is key in mRNA vaccines used to prevent COVID-19.

The sale is expected to close in the next three months, pending regulatory approval.

Merck KGaA said it will continue to invest in mRNA technology and will scale up with Exelead, which is based in Indianapolis and has more than 200 employees.

“Novel modalities, particularly mRNA, present a highly attractive business opportunity as pharma and biotech pipelines are increasingly building on them beyond COVID-19,” Belén Garijo, Merck KGaA’s chief executive, said in a statement. She added that the acquisition will allow the company to further its presence in the growing mRNA therapies market by providing CDMO services.

The purchase of Exelead fits into Merck KGaA’s growth strategy that includes pursuing smaller to medium-sized acquisitions that have a “high impact” potential, the company said.

RELATED: Merck KGaA snaps up mRNA manufacturer AmpTec as pandemic vaccines unlock platform's future

Just under a year ago, Merck KGaA bought Hamburg, Germany-based mRNA manufacturer AmpTec for an undisclosed price. At the time, Merck KGaA said it planned to scale up production capacity at the AmpTec facility as well as boost mRNA capacity at its home base in Darmstadt.