Merck KGaA has agreed to pay $780 million in cash for contract manufacturer Exelead, a specialist in the lipid nanoparticles needed for messenger RNA vaccines. 

The deal will help the German drugs and chemicals maker secure more of the market for mRNA therapies, Chief Executive Officer Belen Garijo said in a statement. The deal is expected to close in the first quarter.

Merck is the latest in a series of companies seeking to capitalize on the success of mRNA vaccines, the technology behind the Covid-19 inoculations sold by Moderna Inc., Pfizer Inc. and BioNTech SE.

The sudden need to produce billions of doses of the shots has sent demand soaring for lipid nanoparticles, the tiny bubbles of fat that encase the delicate mRNA in the vaccines, protecting it as it moves through the body.

The German company isn’t related to U.S. pharmaceuticals giant Merck & Co.