- Merck KGaA plans to spend 100 million euros, or about $110 million, to build a new facility in Carlsbad, California, that will focus on viral vector and gene therapy production.
- The new, 140,000-square-foot facility should open next year and will be part of the BioReliance offering in its Life Science business, Merck KGaA said in an April 21 statement.
- The plan marks the second big investment in Carlsbad by the German drugmaker and manufacturer in recent years. In 2016, the company expanded an existing site there to 65,000 square feet.
Merck KGaA, like other contract manufacturers such as Lonza, is betting the next big wave of demand will be for complex production of gene therapies and other products such as viral vaccines and immunotherapies. The gene therapy market will grow to about $10 billion by 2026 from $1 billion in 2018, the company said, citing estimates from Biotech Forecasts.
"Viral vector manufacturing has transitioned from a niche industry to the cornerstone of the future of biopharmaceuticals," said Udit Batra, head of Merck KGaA's life science business, in a statement.
The German company has been on a spending spree in recent years, announcing plans to invest 1 billion euros in its global headquarters in Darmstadt, more than $400 million in two sites in Switzerland, and $70 million in a research and development hub expansion in Billerica, Massachusetts.
Carlsbad is already home to a Merck KGaA facility that has been involved in gene therapy since 1997, about the time that researchers beginning studying the potential for such treatments in people. At present, the site has 16 modular viral bulk manufacturing clean room suites and two fill/finish suites, Merck KGaA said.
With the new facility, the Carlsbad location will have 27 suites used in different parts of the manufacturing process and will support production at the 1000-liter scale using single-use equipment, Merck KGaA said.
The company also has a manufacturing facility in Glasgow that produces intermediates and final products for gene therapy and viral vaccines.
Merck KGaA, established in 1688, is majority owned by descendants of the original founder and had sales of 16.2 billion euros last year. The U.S. pharmaceutical giant Merck was once a subsidiary but is no longer associated with its German namesake.