Why Merck Is Buying Themis

By Dan Anderson ● May 27, 2020
  • Merck & Co., Inc. (NYSE: MRK) and Themis — which is a company focused on vaccines and immune-modulation therapies for infectious diseases and cancer — announced that the companies have entered into a definitive agreement under which Merck will buy Themis

Merck & Co., Inc. (NYSE: MRK) and Themis — which is a company focused on vaccines and immune-modulation therapies for infectious diseases and cancer — announced that the companies have entered into a definitive agreement under which Merck (through a subsidiary) will acquire privately-held Themis. Themis has a large pipeline of vaccine candidates and immune-modulatory therapies developed using its innovative measles virus vector platform based on a vector originally developed by scientists at the Institut Pasteur, a renowned European vaccine research institute and licensed exclusively to Themis for select viral indications.

A couple of months ago, Themis joined a consortium together with the Institut Pasteur and The Center for Vaccine Research at the University of Pittsburgh, supported by funding from the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) to develop a vaccine candidate targeting SARS-CoV-2 for the prevention of COVID-19.

The planned acquisition builds upon an ongoing collaboration between the two companies to develop vaccine candidates using the measles virus vector platform and is expected to accelerate the development of Themis’ COVID-19 vaccine candidate. And the vaccine candidate is in pre-clinical development. And clinical studies are planned to start later in 2020.

As part of the agreement, Merck (through a subsidiary) will acquire all outstanding shares of Themis in exchange for an undisclosed cash payment. And upon completion of the deal, Themis will become a wholly-owned subsidiary of Merck.

The investments by CEPI were important to advancing the Themis technology platform and associated programs. And Merck looks forward to continued collaboration with CEPI and other international organizations as we work together toward global access to potential SARS-CoV-2 vaccines.

Key Quotes:

“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.”

– Dr. Roger M. Perlmutter, president of Merck Research Laboratories

“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.”

– Dr. Erich Tauber, chief executive officer at Themis

“I am delighted that the vaccine technology initially developed at the Institut Pasteur, and enhanced in partnership with Themis, will now be leveraged by Merck to develop candidate vaccines designed to prevent and control emerging infectious diseases, notably COVID-19. This is an exciting and impactful development for global public health.”

– Prof. Stewart Cole, president of Institut Pasteur.