Merck KGaA shuffles organization to boost its CDMO operation as a top exec retires
Merck KGaA is reorganizing after a key supply chain executive’s retirement, building out a new life science unit with a fully integrated CDMO and contract testing service business.
In Burlington, MA, about 15 miles northwest of downtown Boston, the new life sciences services unit (LSS for short) will combine the existing CDMO and contract testing units, along with the respective marketing, sales, research and development, manufacturing and supply chain operations. Everything from monoclonal antibodies to high potency APIs, ADCs and viral and gene therapies will be housed inside LSS. It will also include the company’s mRNA operations, which have recently been boosted with acquisitions of AmpTec in 2021 and Exelead, which was announced last month.
Merck KGaA has been upping its operations around lipids. In taking over 11-year-old Indianapolis-based Exelead for $780 million, Merck KGaA will set itself up nicely for all of the Covid-19 vaccine makers who have turned to outside manufacturers for help meeting global demand.
The US government inked a $137 million contract to ramp up production of rapid Covid-19 tests amid the worst of the Omicron variant’s reign, at the end of 2021. Millipore Sigma, a unit of the company, will build a new facility to make nitrocellulose membranes, the paper that shows the test results, and its Sheboygan, WI plant will allow for another 85 million tests a month.
Dirk Lange will head that operation and take over on Feb. 15. He brings 20 years of experience to the table and comes over from KBI Biopharma, a CDMO based in Durham, NC. He previously spent time in Europe, working for big-name biopharmas such as Sandoz and Novartis.
“Science and technology are advancing at an unprecedented speed, and with that are the needs and expectations of our customers worldwide. Having the right operating model in place will accelerate our ability to provide the best products and services to our customers and deliver on our high ambitions for long-term profitable growth,” board member Matthias Heinzel said in a press release. “Ultimately, our goal is to make a positive impact on patients by enabling the development of life-saving therapies and vaccines.”
The transformation, strategy and business development units and quality and regulatory units will stay the same. Chris Ross, the head of integrated supply chain operations for the last two years, will retire after nearly 14 years with the company. Ivan Donzelot will take over on April 1, the day after Ross’ last day at the company. The integrated supply chain and operations team is based out of Switzerland, and Donzelot will help offer support to the business as it grows and navigates the current supply chain.
“I wish our new leaders great success in their roles, and on behalf of our entire organization, I thank Chris Ross for his many years of service and for his tireless efforts in helping to bring life-saving products to patients around the world,” said Heinzel.
The company will also roll out a science and lab solutions division that combines the research solutions and applied solutions units to provide a more seamless experience, the company said. The unit will include the reagents, consumables, devices, instruments, software and scientific discovery services portfolios, and will be led by Jean-Charles Wirth. Wirth is currently the head of applied solutions and has been with Merck KGaA since 2006.
Merck KGaA’s process solutions unit will still be led by 16-year company veteran Andrew Bulpin, but will now collaborate with the LSS to offer pharmaceutical development and manufacturing.
Merck KGaA also snatched up Chord Therapeutics about a year after it emerged from stealth, adding its lead candidate — a small molecule oral version of the chemotherapy drug cladribine. It was Merck KGaA’s second go-around at cladribine, after a 2019 approval from the FDA of its own tablets for multiple sclerosis.