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US pharmaceutical giant takes over Vienna-based biotech company Themis Bioscience

The company MSD is acquiring a 100% stake in Themis Bioscience through its European subsidiary. The aws Gründerfonds, which has held a stake in Themis since 2016, is thus making its tenth exit. According to MSD, the acquisition builds on an existing collaboration between the two companies to develop a vaccine candidate. The takeover could accelerate the development of Themis’ COVID-19 vaccine.

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This picture show a sight seen in Viena.

Themis Bioscience, a Vienna-based company founded in 2009, specializes in vaccines and therapies for infectious diseases and cancer. On Tuesday, May 26th, the company announced the takeover by the US pharmaceutical group MSD. In a press release, the company stated: “As part of the agreement, MSD will acquire the private company Themis through a subsidiary.”

Only last September, Themis made the headlines with a Series D investment round. The company secured $43.7 million (€40 million) at the time. Among the partners of the company were: Farallon Capital and Hadean Ventures, MSD (Merck & Co., USA) and Adjuvant Capital. “We wanted to broaden our investor base,” said Themis CEO Erich Tauber. “That’s why we explicitly looked around for US investors.”

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The two companies have cooperated in the past

According to MSD, the proposed acquisition builds on an existing collaboration between the two companies to develop a vaccine candidate. The takeover is also said to accelerate the development of Themis’ COVID-19 vaccine candidate. The vaccine candidate is currently in preclinical development and clinical trials are expected to begin later in 2020.

Ina Herzer, Managing Director, MSD Austria, commented on the acquisition: “The combination of MSD’s many years of experience in the field of infectious diseases with Themis’ specialized expertise will enable us to work more intensively together on the development of new vaccines for current and future pathogens.”

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Vaccine candidates against SARS-CoV-2

Themis has built a broad pipeline of vaccine candidates and immunomodulation therapies using its own measles virus vector platform. The platform is based on a vector that was originally developed by scientists at the Institut Pasteur, a leading global research institute for vaccines. This vector was exclusively licensed to Themis for selected viral indications.

Regarding the acquisition and further development of the vaccinology candidates, Erich Tauber, Chief Executive Officer of Themis stated: “We look forward to becoming a part of MSD and to combining our strengths to rapidly develop vaccine candidates against SARS-CoV-2 and future threatening pandemics.”

With the 100% acquisition by Merck/MSD, the Vienna-based company has full access to the marketing know-how of an international pharmaceutical group. This means that the developed products can be offered faster and, above all, in the appropriate quantities worldwide.

The tenth exit for aws Gründerfonds

The aws Gründerfonds had held a stake in Themis since 2016. With this acquisition, aws Gründerfonds is making its tenth exit to date. However, it was agreed not to disclose the exact amount.

Regarding the exit, Gründerfonds Managing Director Ralf Kunzmann said in a first statement: “When aws Gründerfonds entered the company very early, in 2016, in a Series B financing round, when we already saw enormous potential. This potential has now not only been confirmed, but exceeded in many respects.” Kunzmann added: “The successful exit with a high return not only returns capital to the location, but Vienna can once again show itself as an international hotspot in the biotech sector.”

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Suzanne Mitchell juggles the busy life of a full-time mom and entrepreneur while also being a writer-at-large for several business publications. Her work mostly covers the financial sector, including traditional and alternative investing. She shares reports and analyses on the real estate, fintech and cryptocurrency markets. She also likes to write about the health and biotech industry, in particular its intersection with clean water and cannabis. It is one of her goals to always share things of interest to women who want to make their mark in the world.