Merck KGaA's MilliporeSigma lays out $47M upgrade for New England sites tapped in pandemic manufacturing push

Merck KGaA's MilliporeSigma is currently supplying single-use and virus filtration technologies to more than 50 drugmakers working on COVID-19 vaccines, the company's interim CEO said. (MilliporeSigma)(Merck KGaA / MilliporeSigma US)

In early September, Merck KGaA’s MilliporeSigma unit made a $65 million splash to boost production of ingredients for next-generation oncology meds in Wisconsin—but that was only a piece of the life science business’ stateside manufacturing push.

Over the next two years, MilliporeSigma will pump a combined $47 million into its production facilities in Danvers, Massachusetts, and Jaffrey, New Hampshire, creating nearly 700 new manufacturing positions along the way.

The New England sites supply products to clients developing drugs as well as COVID-19 vaccines, and also offer products and services for biopharmaceutical manufacturing, the company said.

“The global coronavirus pandemic has significantly increased demand for our single-use and virus filtration technologies, which we are supplying to more than 50 different companies working on Covid-19 vaccine candidates,” Chris Ross, interim CEO at the Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany, subsidiary, said in a release.

MilliporeSigma's Danvers upgrade, set to come online in 2021, will add 65,000 square feet to its existing 120,000-square-foot space, boosting capacity to produce its Mobius single-use consumables used in bioreactors that produce vaccine or drug material, the spokeswoman said.

MilliporeSigma has earmarked around $25 million for its Massachusetts expansion, which will add approximately 400 new jobs through next year.

The $22 million left over will fuel a 25,000-square-foot expansion at its 260,000-square-foot production facility in New Hampshire. The Jaffrey site will be kitted out with new production lines and equipment to beef up manufacturing of filtration devices and membrane products under its Durapore, Express and Viresolve brand names.

The expansion is expected to add roughly 275 new jobs by 2022.

The New England overhaul rounds out a trilogy of U.S. expansions this year. In April, the company made plans to invest $110 million to open a second viral vector facility in Carlsbad, California, expected to “more than double” the Merck unit’s gene therapy manufacturing capacity.   

MilliporeSigma followed up that scheme in early September with plans to build a $65 million commercial facility near its plant in Madison, Wisconsin, slated to dial up output of active pharmaceutical ingredients used to make antibody-drug conjugates.

Elsewhere, MilliporeSigma's parent company in late September tapped Belén Garijo, the current chief of Merck Healthcare, to take the reins as CEO. Garijo joined Merck in 2011 after a stint at Sanofi and has made several strategic moves during her tenure, including divesting the German drugmaker’s biosimilar portfolio to Fresenius Kabi in 2017 and offloading consumer health to Proctor & Gamble for about $4.2 billion in 2018.

Editor's note: This article was updated to make a distinction between Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany, and the American Merck. It has also been changed to reflect MilliporeSigma's full name.