MilliporeSigma reports robust Q1 on back of COVID-19

Merck’s MilliporeSigma is the latest to report bioprocess resilience in the face of COVID-19, and like others has even seen an increase in sales and projects.

MilliporeSigma, the life sciences division of Germany’s Merck, saw sales of €1.8 billion ($2 billion) in the first quarter of 2020, up 6.5% on the same period last year, fueled in part by its Process Solutions business unit, which saw sales grow organically by 13.2% (another example of double-digit growth in the biopharma equipment and consumables space).

The solid results look even stronger in a period rocked by the impact of the coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) across global markets, with pharma and biotech demand for tech, diagnostics, and testing meaning there were “basically no visible effects from COVID-19,” according to Merck management.

Image: iStock/Stadtratte

When asked on its financial conference call how the firm is working with industry to drive coronavirus efforts, Merck CEO Stefan Oschmann said the firm is supporting all sectors and avenues of investigation.

“We are providing research tools and reagents for instance for RNA purification, RT-PCR, it RT-qPCR, immune essay and supporting reagents that are suitable for SARs code to be to work on products reagents for diagnostics, the two main diagnostics platforms like PCR and serology on PCR quantity in procreate oligo primers probes. We do high flow membranes, beads, antibodies for serology, tests.

“On therapy manufacturing products cell culture and media clarification, DNA digestion, Tangential Flow Filtration, chromatography, sterile filtration, fermentation, bioreactors and Final Fill. And on vaccine development, its discovery and development, this invention is proteases peptides, peptide libraries, antibodies and Amicon, MILLIPLEX, essays, lasers. And in manufacturing, it’s very similar to the therapy manufacturing – manufacturing products.”

Oschmann did see some downsides of coronavirus, specifically in the supply of products for testing like buffers enzymes reagents to academia – one of MilliporeSigma’s largest customer segments – which has seen a slowdown and halting of non-COVID related projects in many universities and research institutes.

Manufacturing

As well as consumables and technologies, Merck is picking up business in its development and manufacturing business due to COVID-19.

“Merck Life Science is also supplying reagents and other essential raw products for vaccine development,” CFO Marcus Kuhnert said on the call.

The firm is working with the Jenner Institute in helping to lay the foundation for large scale production of its COVID-19 vaccine candidate.

And beyond Jenner, “we’re supporting customers on more than 45 different vaccine programs across all vaccine platforms,” Kuhnert said, and without naming specifics he added “we are supporting more than 20 COVID related therapeutics using monoclonal antibody plasma products and antivirus.”

Rival vendors including Sartorius and Thermo Fisher have also reported significant boosts in their relevant first quarters from coronavirus, while the third-party manufacturing sector is also reaping an uptick in business due to COVID-related projects.

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