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Merck KGaA antes up €250M to bridge R&D with manufacturing

Merck KGaA has big plans for a site in Switzerland where it intends to knit together biologics development and manufacturing. 

The German drugmaker today said it will invest €250 million in what it is calling the Biotech Development Center, which it is building near its existing manufacturing site in Corsier-sur-Vevey, Switzerland. It says the facility will bridge biotech development and manufacturing for clinical studies. 

“Our investment in this biotech development facility in Switzerland is strongly related to the growth and progression of our healthcare pipeline, and our confidence in its future potential,” Belén Garijo, Merck’S CEO of healthcare, said in a statement. 

The facility, which Merck expects to complete in 2021 and have validated in 2022, will have 15,700 square meters (169,000 square feet) of development space and will be manned by a “cross-functional team” of about 250 employees it says currently are spread across different sites.  

It will incorporate continuous manufacturing and other technologies the company says will shorten development timelines and help address the growing complexities of biologic drugs so it can get clinical supplies to patients faster. 

The company, which is partnered with Pfizer on immuno-oncology drug Bavencio, last fall struck a deal with GlaxoSmithKline to develop an I-O drug that might take on blockbuster Keytruda. GSK agreed to pay Merck €300 million upfront and milestone payments of up to €500 million, along with potential sales of €2.9 billion, which brings the total to €3.7 billion ($4.16 billion) if the candidate makes it through the approval steeplechase.

Merck says the facility will have a flexible-by-design infrastructure that will allow the facility to be reconfigured as technology evolves. It includes open workspaces to promote collaboration and a host of sustainable features—natural light, highly efficient energy management as well as an architectural design that will follow the contours of the landscape. 

The company points out that this investment follows on the heels of others it has made in R&D and manufacturing, including the €1 billion investment it has pledged to its headquarters manufacturing site in Darmstadt, Germany, and €150 million it is putting into its biologics site in Switzerland.