Merck & Co. €280m spend in latest commitment to Irish biomanufacturing

By Dan Stanton

- Last updated on GMT

Image: iStock/Harvepino
Image: iStock/Harvepino
Global demand for its biologics and vaccines has driven expansion plans and 300 jobs across two Irish facilities says MSD.

The €280m ($313m) investment will expand two Merck & Co. (known as MSD outside North America) facilities in County Carlow and County Cork over the next few years, creating 120 new jobs at the former and more than 200 at the latter.

The expansion “is to meet increased global demand for the medicines and vaccines that we currently manufacture in Ireland, including those for lung cancer, melanoma, hepatitis C and rheumatoid arthritis,” ​Merck spokeswoman Claire Gillespie told Biopharma-Reporter.

The Carlow site hosts Merck’s first stand-alone vaccine and biologics facility outside the US with 200,000 sq ft of formulation and filling space for its commercial products.

Since it was constructed in 2009, it has seen significant investment – including €11.5m in 2015 to support the monoclonal antibody Keytruda (pembrolizumab) – and last year​ Merck announced 110 production, engineering and quality control jobs were being added at the site.

The Brinny, County Cork plant has also seen continued investment to support Merck’s biological products, and 50 manufacturing, quality, technology, and engineering roles were added in 2016. Construction of a $60m commercial-scale microbial fermentation plant at the site also began last year.

Merck in Ireland

Merck has been making drugs in Ireland for over 50 years, but while it continues to invest in its complex biologics and vaccine sites, shifting portfolio needs have seen it downsize its Irish small molecule network, closing sites in County Wicklow​ and County Dublin​.

“We’ve had a strong legacy in Ireland over the last 50 years and our Irish manufacturing sites are important links in MSD’s global network of manufacturing plants,”​ Gillespie told us. The firm’s Irish sites are involved in the production of over 50% of the firm’s global top 20 products.

The latest investment was welcomed by Martin Shanahan, CEO of development body IDA Ireland:

“MSD’s decision to invest in its Irish operations across a number of regional locations further strengthens Ireland’s positioning as a global destination for manufacturing excellence in biopharmaceuticals. It is pleasing that MSD continues to evolve, grow and innovate from Ireland to continue to meet patient needs around the world.”

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