Merck to up drug product capacity by 50% at Swiss site

Merck KGaA will invest €150 million ($168 million) to build a facility with two new aseptic filling lines at its site in Aubonne.

For Germany’s Merck, the Aubonne site in Switzerland is its global center of expertise for the production of biotech drug products, carrying out both aseptic filling and packaging operations.

The €150 million investment will cover a new building with two new lines for the aseptic filling – one for freeze-dried formulations, one for liquid formulations – of biological drugs, along with additional quality control labs.

Image: iStock/eyegelb

The investment will be spread over the 2019-2023 period, spokesperson Benedicte Bogh told Bioprocess Insider. Construction of the new plant is set to finish in 2020, with aseptic operations beginning in 2023.

According to Bogh, “the current lines in Aubonne produced 18 million units 2018 – vials, syringes, and cartridges –and that the two new lines, which will partially replace some of the existing lines, will produce up to 27 million vials.” However, he pointed out figures do not directly compare but it gives an idea of the increase in capacity.

Some of Merck’s global biologics include fertility drug Gonal-f (follitropin alfa for injection), and cancer drug Bavencio (avelumab), but Bogh was unable to speculate which specific medicines will be produced on the new lines.

“What we can say is that with one line for freeze-dried formulations and one line for liquid formulations, as well as a flexible operations model, the new building will provide the possibility to ensure the aseptic filling of virtually any of our biotech medicines for a capacity of up to 27 million vials, allowing to continuously adapt to the market demand for our medicines worldwide.”

The news comes just weeks after the firm pledged to double its planned investment at its headquarters and major R&D and manufacturing site Darmstadt in its native Germany.

After announcing a five-year spend in 2015 of €1 billion spend, the Big Pharma firm will invest a further €1 billion at the site to support new plants, R&D, infrastructure and maintenance up until 2025.

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