Themis and MSD (trademark of Merck & Co., Inc.) announced that the companies have entered into a definitive agreement under which MSD, through a subsidiary, will acquire privately-held Themis.
Themis has a broad pipeline of vaccine candidates and immune-modulatory therapies developed using its measles virus vector platform based on a vector originally developed by scientists at the Institut Pasteur and licensed exclusively to Themis for select viral indications. In March, 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.
“Building on the pioneering work of the Institut Pasteur, the Themis team has established specialized expertise that complements MSD’s own capabilities in the discovery, development, manufacturing and global distribution of vaccines,” said Dr. Roger M. Perlmutter, president,
Research & Development, MSD. “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.”
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. The vaccine candidate is in pre-clinical development, and clinical studies are planned to start later in 2020.
Under terms of the agreement, MSD, through a subsidiary, will acquire all outstanding shares of Themis in exchange for an undisclosed cash payment. Upon completion of the deal Themis will become a wholly-owned subsidiary of MSD.
“This acquisition by MSD, 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,” said Dr. Erich Tauber, chief executive officer, Themis. “We are excited for the next phase of our relationship with MSD and in the near term look forward to focusing resources toward the development and global scale-up of our candidate SARS-CoV-2 vaccine.”
“I am delighted that the vaccine technology initially developed at the Institut Pasteur, and enhanced in partnership with Themis, will now be leveraged by MSD 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,” commented Prof. Stewart Cole, president of Institut Pasteur.
Investments by CEPI were important to advancing the Themis technology platform and associated programs. MSD looks forward to continued collaboration with CEPI and other international organizations as we work together toward global access to potential SARS-CoV-2 vaccines.
Closing of the transaction is subject to the expiration or earlier termination of the waiting period under the Hart-Scott-Rodino Antitrust Improvements Act, merger control clearance in Austria, and other customary conditions. In connection with the transaction, Institut Pasteur, CEPI and MSD have entered into a memorandum of understanding that reflects the parties’ commitments to address the COVID-19 pandemic by developing, manufacturing and distributing the vaccine on a global basis and with pricing that makes the vaccine both available around the world and accessible to those who need it, including low-income, middle-income and highincome countries based on the medical need when the vaccine may become available.
MSD is a global leader in infectious diseases and vaccines, with a long history of researching, developing, manufacturing and distributing vaccines for children, adolescents and adults. MSD is committed to ensuring that any vaccines we develop for SARS-CoV-2 will be accessible and affordable globally, and plans to manufacture the vaccine at sites in the U.S. and Europe.
Measles Vector Platform
The measles vector platform is being evaluated across a wide range of infectious disease and immunology indications. It uses a modified measles vaccine virus as a vector and can be engineered to express a wide range of antigens. The measles vector is designed to provide a vehicle to deliver antigens to the immune system capable of triggering a protective memory response. It has been incorporated into vaccine development programs against infectious diseases including SARS, Chikungunya, MERS, and Lassa fever. Originally developed at the Institut Pasteur, the technology platform was first licensed to Themis in 2010.