Merck has agreed to acquire Themis Bioscience, an Austrian pharma company, which is currently engaged in developing a vaccine for COVID-19.
Themis Bioscience is said to have a pipeline of vaccine candidates and immune-modulatory therapies, which have been developed using its measles virus vector platform.
In March 2020, the Austrian vaccine maker joined a consortium alongside France-based Institut Pasteur and The Center for Vaccine Research at the University of Pittsburgh for developing a vaccine candidate, which will target the SARS-CoV-2 virus for the prevention of Covid-19.
Merck Research Laboratories president Roger Perlmutter said: “Building on the pioneering work of the Institut Pasteur, the Themis team has established specialized expertise that complements Merck’s own capabilities in the discovery, development, manufacturing and global distribution of vaccines.
“We are eager to combine our strengths both to develop an effective Covid-19 vaccine in the near term and to build a pandemic preparedness capability directed toward emerging agents that pose a future epidemic threat.”
As per the terms of the deal, Merck, via a subsidiary, will acquire all outstanding shares of Themis Bioscience by making an undisclosed cash payment. Following the closing of the deal, the Austrian vaccine maker will become Merck’s wholly-owned subsidiary.
Merck said that the proposed acquisition builds upon an ongoing collaboration it has with the Austrian firm for developing vaccine candidates using the measles virus vector platform. The transaction is expected to speed up the development of Themis Bioscience’ Covid-19 vaccine candidate, said Merck.
Currently, the Covid-19 vaccine candidate is in pre-clinical development with clinical studies planned to commence later this year.
Themis Bioscience CEO Erich Tauber said: “This acquisition by Merck, a global leader in vaccine development, reflects Themis’ success in applying our versatile immune-modulation platform that builds on the original discoveries from the Institut Pasteur.
“We are excited for the next phase of our relationship with Merck and in the near-term look forward to focusing resources toward the development and global scale-up of our candidate SARS-CoV-2 vaccine.”