Merck's $500M bet on Singapore leads to new manufacturing sites making Keytruda, Gardasil and future inhalers
In a boost to its Asia Pacific regional headquarters in Singapore, Merck has opened a new secondary packaging facility and broken ground on a separate facility that will manufacture next-generation inhalers.
The two manufacturing sites are part of a $500 million investment to expand production of medicines and vaccines in Singapore over five years, dating back to 2020.
As Fernando Otero, associate vice president, MSD Manufacturing Division, Singapore, put it, Merck sees the country “as a strategic node in our company’s global manufacturing network with a focus on producing innovative medicines to treat chronic diseases and cancer as well as vaccines that prevent infectious diseases for patients living in Singapore and throughout the Asia Pacific region and beyond.”
Among the drugs that will go through the secondary packaging facility will be Keytruda, Merck’s flagship PD-1 inhibitor, which brought in a whopping $17 billion in 2021 — with almost $7.5 billion of that coming from outside the US.
Sporting a semi-automated vial packaging line and three fully automated syringe packaging lines, the site will also fill the Gardasil HPV vaccine. Other features of the expansion include old storage and quality control.
The new inhaler medicine facility, meanwhile, is slated for a 2026 completion, and it will produce inhaler devices used in targeted administration of drugs.
Having had a manufacturing presence in Singapore since 1997, Merck notes that it’s invested $2 billion in the local manufacturing operations.
Merck has also set up R&D, IT and other business units there, and part of the $500 million investment will go toward modernizing the IT infrastructure. All told, the cash infusion should create more than 100 new jobs — many of them requiring advanced manufacturing and digital skills — bringing the total Singaporean workforce to more than 1,800.
Long a regional biomedical hub, Singapore has drawn additional interest amid the Covid-19 pandemic, with Moderna, BioNTech and Sanofi all setting up shop to make room for local manufacturing. Contract players like WuXi, GenScript and Catalent expanded their existing facilities.
Previously, Hilleman Laboratories, a joint venture backed by Merck, also made plans for a manufacturing and R&D site to help fight infectious diseases.