The acquisition of Exelead, a full-service contract development and manufacturing organisation focused on Lipid Nanoparticle formulations, is expected to enhance Merck’s mRNA and lipid manufacturing capabilities


The deal is expected to strengthen Merck’s Process Solutions business unit. (Credit: Merck KGaA)

Merck has agreed to acquire Exelead, a biopharmaceutical contract development and manufacturing organization (CDMO), for around $780m in cash.

Exelead is focused on complex injectable formulations, including Lipid Nanoparticle (LNP) based drug delivery technology, used in mRNA therapeutics, including for Covid-19.

The deal is expected to strengthen Merck’s Process Solutions business unit, which is said to be one of the company’s three growth engines.

It follows the acquisition of AmpTec, a Germany-based mRNA CDMO, by Merck at the beginning of last year.

Merck executive board chair and CEO Belén Garijo said: “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 Merck to capture the significant potential of the fast-growing market for mRNA therapies by providing leading CDMO services to our customers.”

Based in Indiana, US, Exelead has more than 200 employees, and is experienced in developing LNP formulations for more than ten years.

Merck said that Exelead’s capabilities and expertise will strengthen its CDMO mRNA offering, and intends to scale up the mRNA technology at its existing site in Indianapolis.

The transaction is expected to enhance Merck’s more than 20 years of experience in producing components for mRNA therapeutics, including Covid-19 vaccines.

It is expected to be closed in the first quarter of 2022, subject to regulatory approvals and satisfaction of other customary closing conditions.

Exelead chief executive officer John Rigg said: “With Merck’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.”