Merck KGaA pledges $550M in manufacturing upgrades after closing buyout of mRNA CDMO Exelead

Last month when Merck KGaA announced it had agreed to acquire Indianapolis-based CDMO Exelead, the company estimated that the purchase would take three months to complete.

In typical German efficiency, the companies needed only about half that time to get it done.

On Thursday, Merck KGaA’s subsidiary in the United States, MilliporeSigma, revealed the done deal, following regulatory approvals and other clearances, for $780 million. The acquisition is part of Merck KGaA’s effort to expand into the booming mRNA market.

Merck KGaA also revealed that it will invest an additional €500 million ($557 million) to scale up Exelead’s technology over the next 10 years, the companies said.

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Exelead specializes in sterile injectables. The CDMO’s formulations include lipid nanoparticle-based delivery technology, which helped facilitate the rapid development of COVID-19 vaccines produced by Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech.

The acquisition is “an important milestone,” said Matthias Heinzel, of Merck KGaA’s executive board.

“(Messenger) RNA holds much promise as a treatment well beyond COVID-19 and we will further invest in this technology to help realize its potential,” Heinzel said in a release.

Established just five years ago and now employing 200 workers, Exelead’s experience ranges from pre-clinical development to commercial manufacturing of LNP formulations, including fill and finish.

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Combined with last year’s acquisition of Hamburg, Germany-based mRNA manufacturer AmpTec, the purchase of Exelead will simplify “supply chain complexity” and enhance “speed to market,” Merck KGaA said.