Sector News

Merck says Keytruda's explosive growth prompts need for new Ireland plant

February 15, 2018
Life sciences

A Merck manufacturing site in Ireland that was slated to close has been saved by the drugmaker’s hot-selling cancer drug Keytruda.

Merck & Co. today said it will build a new biologics plant at its Swords site near Dublin to produce the blockbuster immuno-oncology therapy. It didn’t disclose the size of the investment but said it would create 350 jobs as part of the deal.

The site was slated to be closed or sold last year. The company, known as MSD outside the U.S., is shooting to have the new facility operational by 2021 and producing commercial products the next year, a goal the company understands is aggressive, a spokeswoman said in an email, confirming reports in Irish media.

“It’s a bold statement by MSD, but that’s our target,” Ger Brennan, managing director of MSD Human Health, told The Irish Times.

He told the newspaper that Merck needed to have confidence in its supply chain since it expects significant growth in immuno-oncology.

Keytruda, which has racked up an impressive list of approvals for different cancers since its 2014 approval, is producing significant growth on its own. The PD-L1 targeted drug contributed almost 10% of Merck’s sales last year, $3.8 billion out of Merck’s $40.1 billion total. The drug posted a 172% increase year over year as it added multiple approvals, including three last May for front-line lung cancer, bladder cancer and microsatellite instability-high cancer. Weeks later, it followed up with a win in two types of recurrent or advanced gastric cancer.

The Swords site where the new plant will be built is near Dublin. Merck produced women’s health products at the facility but in 2013 added it to a list of facilities it was closing in a manufacturing and cost-cutting slim-down and moved production to the Netherlands. At the time, the facility had 570 jobs which it said would be whittled down until the site was sold or closed in 2017.

It put the 33-acre site up for sale last year for about $30 million, but Brennan told The Irish Times that when it projected Merck would need more Keytruda production capacity, the site came into consideration. The fact that infrastructure was in place and its history as a pharma site would speed planning gave it an edge for the new plant.

When Merck reported full-year earnings this month, the drugmaker said it would use some of the repatriated profits it would have as a result of U.S. tax reform on a $12 billion capital projects splurge over the next five years. While about $8 billion is slated for U.S. projects, the new biologics plant and 350 jobs slated in Ireland, is the first of those projects to be announced.

By Eric Palmer

Source: Fierce Pharma

comments closed

Related News

January 15, 2022

Colorcon Ventures invests in AI-Driven bio-simulation company VeriSIM Life

Life sciences

Colorcon Ventures, the corporate venture fund of Colorcon Inc., has invested in VeriSIM Life, a San Francisco-based startup with a digital bio-simulation platform that accelerates drug development and reduces animal testing.

January 15, 2022

A record number of biotechs are going public. Here’s how they’re performing.

Life sciences

Initial public offerings have fueled biotech’s boom. Keep track of them as they happen with this database. Which biotechs create value over time, and which fail? What types of companies are generating the best returns? Who are their top investors? Biopharma Dive is tracking these details in the database which will be updated regularly.

January 15, 2022

Sanofi cuts ties with Sangamo, sharpening focus on ‘off-the-shelf’ cell therapy

Life sciences

Sanofi has ended a long-running alliance with Sangamo Therapeutics to develop genetic medicines for inherited blood disorders, among them an experimental sickle cell disease therapy that is in early clinical testing.
The two have been developing complex, personalized treatments, led by a sickle cell drug known as SAR445136. But Sanofi is now more interested in off-the-shelf approaches, which are meant to be more convenient.

Send this to a friend