Starting the Year Dropping Cash - Two Companies Scooped Up This Week

Acquisition Puzzle Pieces

After a bit of a lull in 2020 for biopharma acquisitions, the first week of 2021 is already seeing some action with two acquisitions announced in the last two days. 

Darmstadt, Germany’s Merck KGaA scooped up small, Hamburg-based AmpTec yesterday. While financial terms of the deal were not disclosed, the deal will boost Merck’s ability to develop and manufacture mRNA for “vaccines, treatments and diagnostics applicable in Covid-19 and many other diseases.” 

The recent success of mRNA-based Covid-19 vaccines piqued the company’s interest in the technology to develop therapeutics for other diseases. 

"By combining AmpTec's PCR-based mRNA technology with Merck's extensive expertise in lipids manufacturing, we are able to provide a truly differentiated and integrated offering across the mRNA value chain, which will significantly decrease supply chain complexity and enhance speed-to-market. This transaction is another important step to support the constant growth of our Life Science business through tailored, small-scale acquisitions with high impact," said CEO Stefan Oschmann. 

AmpTec’s differentiated PCR-based technology for mRNA manufacturing has advantages over other technologies like more purity and flexibility, higher quality and performance.  

AmpTEc also has a diagnostics business focused on production of long RNAs and DNAs for in vitro diagnostics. This will complement Merck’s existing diagnostics which specialize in critical raw materials, components and services for in vitro diagnostics manufacturers.  

Merck announced a collaboration last month with Artios to develop multiple precision oncology drugs over the next three years. Artios got an upfront payment of $30 million with a future potential of up to $860 million per target.  

On the other side of the Atlantic, Durham, NC-based Chimerix is expanding its oncology pipeline with the acquisition of Philadelphia’s Oncoceutics. The $500 million buy will get Chimerix the biotech and its promising lead candidate, ONC201.  

ONC201 is an oral small molecule drug focused on treating brain tumors with H3 K27M mutations. It can cross the brain barrier to antagonize specific dopamine receptors to selectively shut off cancer signaling pathways that support tumor growth. This can then induce tumor cell death to lead to tumor shrinkage and other clinical improvements.  

The drug is currently in a Phase II trial against recurrent glioma, a form of brain cancer with a devastating prognosis. Pivotal data is also expected this year for glioma patients with a particularly deadly mutation that offers a paltry four-month survival prognosis. It has earned the FDA’s fast track designation based promising response rates from three trials.  

Additionally, ONC201 has programs in the works targeting neuroendocrine tumors, endometrial cancer and leukemia.

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