Merck Plans Takeover of Harrisvaccines

Iowa company has produced vaccines to fight deadly pig, chicken and turkey diseases.

Bottles of PEDv vaccine manufactured by Harrisvaccines await distribution.

Amy Mayer/Harvest Public Media

Veterinary drug maker Merck Animal Health has agreed to acquire Harrisvaccines, an Ames, Iowa, company that has led the fight against porcine epidemic diarrhea virus and avian influenza.

The terms of the transaction, which was announced Thursday and is expected to close by year’s end, were not disclosed.

Harrisvaccines Vice President Joel Harris said he and his father, company founder and CEO Hank Harris, DVM, Ph.D., aren’t going away anytime soon.

“I’m staying on in my capacity and Hank is staying on in some capacity,” Joel Harris said. “That’s as much as I want to say.”

Harrisvaccines will become a subsidiary of Merck, he said.

“I think the plan is business as usual as we go through the integration process,” Harris said.

Privately-held Harrisvaccines focuses on food animal vaccines. The company made headlines in 2013 upon winning government approval of a vaccine against porcine epidemic diarrhea virus (PEDv) and this past fall for the conditional license of a vaccine targeting highly pathogenic avian influenza.

PEDv has killed millions of U.S. piglets since 2013, and avian flu has led to the death or destruction of an estimated 50 million American chickens and turkeys over the past year.

On the pet side, the company is awaiting U.S. Department of Agriculture approval of a canine influenza vaccine.

Merck, based in Madison, N.J., praised the accomplishments of 10-year-old Harrisvaccines.

“Combining Harrisvaccines’ R&D and portfolio of products with our strong capabilities and global reach will enable us to address even more devastating diseases that are impacting production animals and reinforce our commitment to the science of healthier animals,” said Rick DeLuca, president of Merck Animal Health.

Harrisvaccines and Ceva Animal Health in October were awarded separate $6 million contracts to produce millions of doses of avian influenza vaccine for the National Veterinary Stockpile.

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