Drug Development

Merck is scouting sites for a new research hub in the Bay Area, plans new hires

Merck’s R&D reorganization in the U.S. includes finding a new research hub in the Bay Area, with plans to add 100 more investigators as they beef up their ranks for new oncology and cardio programs. And the pharma giant eventually plans to consolidate all its R&D efforts in the region into one central campus.

A spokesperson outlined the plans to me after The Daily Journal in The Peninsula quoted officials in South San Francisco saying that Merck was looking to establish a central hub in the thriving biotech hot spot. The city also hosts research groups from Johnson and Johnson, Pfizer and Roche, along with a host of smaller companies.

“We will invest in a new research site in the San Francisco Bay area,” says the spokesperson. “It will initially focus on cardiometabolic disease and oncology discovery. We anticipate recruiting approximately 100 scientists. We are in the final stages of our search for a long-term location, where we will ultimately consolidate our Oncology, Immuno-oncology, Biologics and CMR discovery work into a combined research site. Our Palo Alto site will continue to focus on Immuno-Oncology and Biologics and Vaccines discovery until the long-term facility is up and running.”

“They want to be co-located with a large number of companies and like-minded professionals, where they can easily share ideas and move seamlessly between companies and easily form partnerships,” City Manager Mike Futrell told the local paper.

A week ago Merck pushed on with plans to reduce staff levels at its operations in Kenilworth and Rahway, N.J. The move also affects its North Wales, Pa. screening facility. Merck has already picked out a lab in Cambridge, MA for its expanded work in the East Coast hub. Now it’s well along the way to doing the same on the West Coast.

Many of the top R&D groups in the world have been centralizing their drug development efforts in the biggest hubs, looking to facilitate new deals and better connections with top academic institutions. Boston and the Bay Area account for the lion’s share of the venture cash being invested in U.S. biotechs.

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