(photo courtesy of Exelead)

A Hoosier biopharmaceutical contract development and manufacturing organization will soon be under new ownership. Germany-based Merck KGaA has announced plans to acquire Exelead, headquartered in Indianapolis, in a $780 million deal.

Merck Chief Executive Officer BelĂ©n Garijo says the acquisition will further enable the company to “capture the significant potential of the fast-growing market for mRNA therapies” for use in COVID-19 and other diseases.

Exelead specializes in liquid injectables, including Lipid Nanoparticle-based drug delivery technology, which Merck says plays a key factor in mRNA therapeutics. The company provides services in all development phases from pre-clinical development to commercial contract manufacturing, including fill and finish.

Last June, the company announced it had delivered its first batch of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine with plans to add up to 50 jobs.

“Exelead’s capabilities and expertise will strengthen our CDMO mRNA offering,” said Matthias Heinzel, executive board member at Merck. “This will significantly decrease supply chain complexity and enhance speed-to-market to ultimately accelerate access to life-enhancing therapeutics for patients worldwide.”

Exelead employs more than 200 people at its headquarters in Indianapolis. Merck did not specify whether any jobs would be affected by the acquisition.

In 2019, Exelead detailed plans to invest $25 million to expand operations in Indianapolis. Merck says it plans to further scale up operations in Indy.

The deal is expected to close in the first quarter, pending regulatory approval and customary closing conditions.