German Merck: Continuous is key for bioprocess future

Merck KGaA reports a 15% year-on-year growth in its Process Solutions business and looks to its next-generation bioprocessing platform BioContinuum to continue the momentum.

For the first quarter 2019, Germany’s Merck saw net sales within its life science business of €1.7 billion ($1.9 billion), up from €1.5 billion in the same period last year. The firm’s Process Solutions unit – which includes MilliporeSigma – however, saw a 15.1% year-on-year growth driven by bioprocessing demand, equating to €700 million.

Merck’s results are in line with all the other major bioprocess vendors’s Q1s, including Thermo Fisher’s and Danaher’s. The vendors continue to see sustained high single and low double-digit growth as demand for biomanufacturing equipment and consumables refuse to relent.

Processing up 15.3% y-o-y for Germany’s Merck

Merck management also expects momentum continue within the division, driven by the development of its BioContinuum platform, described on the conference call by CFO Marcus Kuhnert as its next-generation bioprocessing offering.

“The key word here is continuous bioprocessing,” he said. “That means the manufacturing of biotherapeutics will be revolutionized by a higher efficiency, simplified processes and also a higher quality and consistency.”

He gave further details in the context of the continuous production of biologics, saying: “We aim, in the future, to combine process steps that are currently separated into a very consistent and continuous process.

“And when you look on pilot studies, there are indications that we could see significant cost reductions when we are switching to such a kind of next-generation bioprocess manufacturing in the future.”

He did warn that such a process will take some time to establish, “and it is not something that we will see tomorrow. It is rather in a time, I would say, horizon of five year-plus from today. But this is a very promising, strategically relevant initiative in Life Science.”

For the quarter, total sales across the Merck Group stood at €3.7 billion, up 7.5% year-on-year.

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