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Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany, a leading science and technology company, announced the signing of a definitive agreement to acquire Exelead, a biopharmaceutical contract development and manufacturing organization (CDMO), for approximately $780 million in cash. Exelead specializes in complex injectable formulations, including lipid nanoparticle (LNP)-based drug delivery technology, which plays a key role in mRNA therapeutics for use in Covid-19 and many other indications.

Definitive Agreement to Acquire Exelead will Strengthen the CDMO Offering for mRNA of the Life Science Business of Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany

“Novel modalities, particularly mRNA, present a highly attractive business opportunity as pharma and biotech pipelines are increasingly building on them beyond Covid-19. The acquisition of Exelead will further enable us to capture the significant potential of the fast-growing market for mRNA therapies by providing leading CDMO services to our customers,” explained Belén Garijo, Chair of the Executive Board and CEO of Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany.

“Exelead’s capabilities and expertise will strengthen our CDMO mRNA offering. We are excited to work with Exelead’s experienced team. Together, we will provide our customers a unique and truly integrated offering across the mRNA manufacturing process. This will significantly decrease supply chain complexity and enhance speed-to-market to ultimately accelerate access to life-enhancing therapeutics for patients worldwide,” added Matthias Heinzel, Member of the Executive Board of Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany and CEO Life Science.

“With the Life Science business sector’s long-established expertise, in the biopharmaceutical industry, Exelead will now be in a greater position to serve the needs of customers and patients. The business combination will further strengthen our renowned technological know-how and unique expertise that we bring to the CDMO space,” said John Rigg, Chief Executive Officer of Exelead.

The acquisition of Exelead is another milestone to accelerate innovation in the Process Solutions business unit of Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany, one of the company’s three growth engines (“Big 3”), through targeted small to mid-sized acquisitions with high impact. It follows the acquisition of AmpTec, a leading mRNA CDMO based in Hamburg, Germany, announced in early 2021. The transaction expands the company’s more than 20 years of experience in the manufacture of lipids, one of the critical components for the formulation of mRNA therapeutics including Covid-19 vaccines, as well as its mRNA manufacturing capabilities.

Exelead has more than ten years of experience in all phases of development, from preclinical development to commercial contract manufacturing of LNP formulations, including filling and finishing. Exelead is headquartered in Indianapolis, Indiana, United States, where it operates its manufacturing operations and employs more than 200 experts. Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany, intends to further invest in mRNA as a modality and will expand this technology at Exelead’s existing site in Indianapolis.

The transaction is expected to close in the first quarter of 2022 and is subject to regulatory approvals and the satisfaction of other customary closing conditions.

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