Merck KGaA snaps up German CDMO in boost to mRNA portfolio — including for Covid-19
Once thought unlikely as a mechanism of action in vaccines, mRNA-based shots have stormed out to a lead in the fight against Covid-19. But mRNA’s potential effect isn’t limited to just vaccines, and now German drugmaker Merck KGaA is looking to find out just how far it can take the technology.
The Darmstadt, Germany based biopharma has acquired mRNA CDMO AmpTec in Hamburg, saying it plans to strengthen its own capacities to develop and manufacture mRNA for customers to use in “vaccines, treatments and diagnostics applicable in Covid-19 and many other diseases.”
Financial terms of the agreement weren’t disclosed.
In a statement, Merck KGaA CEO Stefan Oschmann said the promise shown for mRNA’s use in Pfizer and Moderna’s Covid-19 vaccines piqued the company’s interest in snapping up AmpTec.
“By combining AmpTec’s PCR-based mRNA technology with our extensive expertise in lipids manufacturing, we are able to provide a truly differentiated and integrated offering across the mRNA value chain, which will significantly decrease supply chain complexity and enhance speed-to-market,” Oschmann said.
AmpTec also boasts a diagnostics business that focuses on producing “customized long RNAs and DNAs for in vitro diagnostics,” which will further complement a key component of Merck KGaA’s existing services. All told, the company said it aims to scale up both at AmpTec’s Hamburg and at the Merck KGaA global headquarters in Darmstadt.
The acquisition continues some recent and substantive expansion plays by Merck KGaA, which announced in December that it agreed to a three-year-deal with Artios worth $30 million upfront and another $865 million waiting in the wings, to discover and develop small molecule cancer drugs that target DNA repair enzymes.
Merck KGaA made waves in September after it named Belén Garijo as its new chief executive, making her one of only two women CEOs at Big Pharma companies. Garijo will succeed Oschmann when his tenure ends by the close of April.
In 2019, GSK paid up to $4.2 billion for Merck KGaA’s bifunctional fusion protein-based cancer immunotherapy, bintrafusp alfa, as the company began a foray into oncology in addition to its mRNA services.
Also of note, in 2017, Endpoints News reported, Merck bought four DNA damage response molecules from Vertex for $230 million. That included two ATR inhibitors that are now in the clinic for their efficacy in treating solid cancer tumors.