Merck KGaA forms new life sciences unit in push to strengthen its CDMO position

Merck KGaA will launch a new life sciences division that consolidates its current CDMO and contract testing units, plus other operations, as part of the pharma giant's move to position itself for future growth.

The new unit, dubbed Life Sciences Services (LSS), goes live April 1 and will be headed by Dirk Lange, who joins the company Feb. 15. The unit will be based in Burlington, Massachusetts, just up the road from Boston. Lange is currently CEO of global CDMO KBI Biopharma, according to that company's website

Under the LSS moniker, Merck KGaA will roll its existing CDMO, plus contract testing units and associated marketing, sales, R&D and more into one group. The unit will have capabilities in monoclonal antibodies, mRNA, high potency APIs, ADCs, and viral and gene therapies.

Merck KGaA has been on a recent run in the mRNA arena, plunking down $780 million last month to acquire biopharma CDMO Exelead. That purchase was almost a year to the date after Merck KGaA snapped up Hamburg, Germany-based mRNA manufacturer AmpTec for an undisclosed price.

At the time, the company said the purchase was part of its plans to beef up production and development for customers using that platform to crank out vaccines, treatments and diagnostics, including those for COVID-19.

“Our new operating model is another strong proof point of our evolved strategy in action and serves as a key milestone towards realizing our ambitious growth plans in the next decade,” Matthias Heinzel, executive board member of Merck KGaA and life science chief executive, said in a statement.

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As part of the move, Merck KGaA said its Research Solutions and Applied Solutions units will be combined into the Science and Lab Solutions unit led by Jean-Charles Wirth, currently head of Applied Solutions. Andrew Bulpin will continue to lead its Process Solution business unit.

Additionally, Merck KGaA said Ivan Donzelot will replace Christos Ross as head of integrated supply chain operations. Ross is set to retire at the end of March. Donzelot joins the life sciences executive team in Switzerland.

With the formation of LSS, some supply chain operations related to CDMO and contract testing services will move under the LSS umbrella.