On May 26, 2020, Merck (NYSE: MRK), known as MSD outside the United States and Canada, and Themis, 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 broad pipeline of vaccine candidates and immune-modulatory therapies developed using its innovative measles virus (image) vector platform based on a vector originally developed by scientists at the Institut Pasteur, a world-leading European vaccine research institute, and licensed exclusively to Themis for select viral indications. In March 2020, 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 Merck’s own capabilities in the discovery, development, manufacturing, and global distribution of vaccines,” said Dr. Roger M. Perlmutter, MD, PhD, President, Merck Research Laboratories. “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.
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