Merck was one of the first Big Pharmas to realize the benefits of establishing a manufacturing stronghold in Singapore. Now, amid a rush of other biopharma companies into the island nation, Merck is doubling down there.
Wednesday, the New Jersey-based company opened a new secondary packaging facility to churn out vaccines and biologics. It also broke ground on a plant that will produce inhalers and is set for completion in 2026.
Merck's fill-finish facility in Singapore now includes a vial-packaging line to produce cancer treatment Keytruda and three syringe-packaging lines to manufacture another Merck mega blockbuster, HPV vaccine Gardasil.
The site began the sterile fill of Keytruda into vials last year. Its expansion includes cold storage and a new quality control laboratory.
Both factories are located within Merck’s 72-acre manufacturing campus in Tuas, Singapore. Merck opened its first plant in Singapore in 1997. The new facilities are part of an outlay of up to $500 million, which brings Merck’s total investment over nearly three decades in Singapore to $2 billion.
In addition to the two new facilities, Merck has earmarked some funding for improved information technology and initiatives to advance the company’s environmental sustainability goals.
The new investment will add more than 100 jobs, bringing Merck’s employee force in Singapore to more than 1,800.
Singapore has recently become a hotbed for biopharma manufacturing. Before the coronavirus pandemic, GSK was the only company with a vaccine plant in the country. In April however, Sanofi began construction on a $434 million vaccine plant, which will add to its already significant presence in the country.
Last year, sudden vaccine powerhouse BioNTech unveiled plans for a regional headquarters in Singapore, which will include an mRNA manufacturing facility with an estimated capacity of several hundred million vaccine doses a year.
Early this year, Moderna sketched plans for a new subsidiaries in Hong Kong, Malaysia, Singapore and Taiwan to expand its commercial footprint in Asia.
The move to Singapore isn’t just from the West. WuXi Bio is laying out $1.4 billion over the next 10 years to beef up research and development plus large-scale drug substance and drug product manufacturing in Singapore.