Merck opens China manufacturing plant, will invest an additional $88M nearby

Merck KGaA's Nantong facility(Merck & Co.)

German drugmaker Merck KGaA has opened the doors to its Nantong manufacturing facility that will produce pharmaceuticals for China’s Essential Drug List to meet a growing demand in that country.

The $188 million facility is the largest Merck plant outside of Europe and is expected to begin delivering drugs to patients by the second half of next year, the company said. When fully operational, the Nantong facility will host about 400 new jobs. Its original specs pegged the size of the plant at 40,000 square meters (about 430,000 square feet), with room to expand by another 20,000 square meters.

In conjunction with the plant’s inauguration, Merck announced it would invest an additional $88 million into a Life Science Center located near the Nantong site that will manufacture high-purity inorganic salts, cell culture media products as well as ready-to-use media.

Merck has invested a total of about $270 million in drug production in China.

“With our new state-of-the-art pharmaceutical production, Merck is transforming from an import-based company to a full-fledged local industry player in China,” Marc Horn, Merck’s managing director of biopharma business in China, said in a statement. “By dedicating the largest manufacturing plant outside of Europe to the production of pharmaceuticals to address widespread healthcare needs in China, Merck is connected with China more than ever.”

In previous statements, the company has said the Nantong facility, which is located in the Greater Shanghai region, will produce diabetes drugs Glucophage, Concor and Euthyrox, and drugs for heart and thyroid conditions as well.

China is seen by many pharma companies as a lucrative next step in growing market share, though it can be difficult for Western companies to navigate. Still, drugmakers like Johnson & Johnson have committed to building production operations in the country.