Merck KGaA adds 350 workers at French site to build capacity for 'single-use' tech for Covid-19 vaccines, therapies
Germany’s Merck KGaA has seen a growth spurt in recent months driven by sky-high demand for Covid-19 drugs and vaccines. Now, the company is fleshing out a French production site to produce one-and-done production tech that can help Covid-19 manufacturers scale up faster.
Merck KGaA through its MilliporeSigma subsidiary will invest nearly $30 million and add 350 positions to its Molsheim, France facility to build capacity for “single-use” technology, preassembled production equipment that allows companies to rapidly scale their own production, Merck KGaA said this week.
The expansion will also add 18,300 square feet of manufacturing space, including ISO7 or ISO5 cleanrooms, using a modular design that won’t disrupt existing operations, the company said. Merck KGaA expects the new space to go online by the end of 2021.
Merck KGaA painted the expansion as a move to meet increased demand for Covid-19 vaccines and therapeutics, where drugmakers in the space have looked to quickly scale production to meet global demand. The Molsheim site is Merck KGaA’s first EU site to produce single-use tech, joining existing facilities in WuXi China, and Danvers, MA, where the firm is also looking to double capacity for single-use products.
“In recent years, many biopharmaceutical manufacturers have turned to single-use technologies for their flexibility, cost savings, speed and reduced risk, leading to double-digit market growth for this segment,” Chris Ross, Merck KGaA’s interim sector head of life science, said in a statement. “The coronavirus pandemic has accelerated this trend, with most programs using single-use production templates.”
The Molsheim facility is the third largest in Merck KGaA’s life science portfolio, employing more than 1,700 workers of 32 different nationalities and producing more than 10,000 products, the company said. More than 85% of the products produced on site are exported globally.
Once focused on biomonitoring and water purification, Molsheim will now see its mission change as Merck KGaA continues to rapidly expand following a big year for contract manufacturers amid the pandemic.
In January, Merck KGaA announced it would acquire mRNA CDMO AmpTec in Hamburg, saying it plans to strengthen its own capacities to develop and manufacture mRNA for customers to use in “vaccines, treatments and diagnostics applicable in Covid-19 and many other diseases.”
Just a month later, the Darmstadt, Germany-based company announced it would boost its production of lipids used to transport mRNA vaccines as part of a deal with Pfizer and German neighbor BioNTech for their Covid-19 shot. Lipid nanoparticles are a key delivery tech for mRNA vaccines, which require stable encapsulation to travel through the bloodstream.
Merck’s aggressive expansion is taking place during the transition into power of Belén Garijo, named CEO in September and one of the few female biopharma lead executives. Garijo is set to replace longtime leader Stefan Oschmann in May, picking up his role and executive chair seat.