For the third quarter 2017, Merck KGaA reported net sales in its life sciences division – MilliporeSigma – of €1.4bn ($1.6bn), up 1.3% year-on-year. But negative foreign exchange offset an organic 5% growth, the firm said, driven by the Process Solutions business unit, which includes Merck’s portfolio of single-use bioprocessing products.
“Clearly the penetration of single-use is increasing,” said Udit Batra, CEO of life sciences on a conference call this week, adding the sector is continuing to grow faster than the rest of the portfolio.
“This particular portfolio has gone from a hobby to one that is used quite extensively in the industry and that has forced us to become much more efficient.”
“The tragedy of this business is that it grew so fast that it did not get industrialised fast enough. There was a lack of standardisation as customers were all doing individualised products and that put pressure, of course, on our deliveries and the quality of the product and timing.” He added he saw the same pattern among MilliporeSigma’s competitors.
The firm has since standardised its offering, he explained, to drive efficiencies.
“Customers who ordered standardised portfolio could get the product within 24 to 48 hours. If you had semi-customised you would need six to 10 days, and if you had completely customised you needed a month, so that gives an incentive to customers who purchase more standardised portfolios, thus helping us become more efficient in scaling up this really important part of our portfolio.”
Merck has also expanded in capacity at its site near Boston to support the business, and has scouted for technology add-ons resulting in the acquisition of Natrix Seperations this quarter, bolstering its single-use chromatography portfolio.
Batra also told stakeholders of his firm’s end-to-end bioprocessing initiative.
“We now have a complete offering for any customer who wants to develop their processes using our consumables and our equipment.” Small customers and emerging biotech specifically “are looking for a one-stop shop, especially for process development,” he said.
“We started to focus on this business about a year and a half ago with our site in Martillac, France where we do process development. The ambition was to get to the three customers in the first year, we ended up with 15.
“The demand is so high that we opened up a similar centre in Shanghai and another one is due to open in Boston towards the first part of next year.”