Merck builds out Asian manufacturing presence with $500m investment

By Ben Hargreaves

- Last updated on GMT

© GettyImages/sorbetto
© GettyImages/sorbetto

Related tags: Biologics, Vaccines, Inhaler, Packaging

The company will expand its manufacturing hub in Singapore to add the ability to produce biologics and vaccines, alongside other capabilities.

Merck, known as MSD outside of the US and Canada, announced that it had opened a new secondary packaging facility to support production of vaccines and biologics, particularly for its immunotherapy portfolio, including Keytruda (pembrolizumab).

In addition, the company broke ground for an inhaler production facility that will be used to manufacture ‘new generation’ inhaler medicines.

The new facilities are based in Tuas, Singapore, and will be built within the company’s existing 72-acre manufacturing hub. The products created at the location will supply the Asia Pacific region.

Merck expects the investment to add 100 new positions over the coming years to support the new facilities, with positions added requiring expertise in advanced manufacturing and digital skills. Across all of its facilities in the hub, this would bring the total number of employees in the country to more than 1,800.

Merck plans to invest up to US$500m (€509m) into its Singaporean manufacturing operations between 2020 and 2025. According to the company, it has already invested $2bn into the country since 1997.

“MSD is committed to Singapore 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,”​ said Fernando Otero, associate vice president, MSD Manufacturing Division, Singapore.

Automated syringe and vial packaging lines

The secondary packaging facility will contain a semi-automated, vial-packaging line to produce Keytruda, and three fully automated syringe-packaging lines to produce Gardasil 9 (Human Papillomavirus 9-valent Vaccine, Recombinant), an HPV vaccine.

According to the company, the site began the sterile filling process of Keytruda vials in 2021. Further expansions to secondary packaging, cold storage, and a quality control laboratory will also be included with the expanded facility.

In terms of the inhaler facility, few details were offered except that it is projected to be ready in 2026. Other elements that will be added through the overall investment project include new technology to achieve the company’s sustainability goals and the modernization of Merck’s IT infrastructure, which would support the digitizing of the facilities.

Merck joins a number of other companies that are building out their presence in Singapore, which includes WuXi Biologics​ and Sanofi​. Both companies announced major expansions in the country in 2022, with Chris Chen, CEO of WuXi, noting that Singapore had “established itself as one of the most advanced pharmaceutical hubs in the world.”

Related topics: Markets & Regulations

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