Merck will support Saudi Arabia effort to build biologics manufacturing operations

Saudi Arabia Mosque
Merck and SaudiVax are partnering to develop and construct a Hala vaccines and Biotherapeutics manufacturing facility in Saudi Arabia. (David Mark/Pixabay)

MerckMerck KGaA  has signed on to help SaudiVax of Saudi Arabia design and construct a multimodality biologics manufacturing facility as part of the country’s efforts to provide a more localized production infrastructure for the Middle East, Northern Africa region.

SaudiVax, which is touted as the first vaccine biotech in Saudi Arabia, committed earlier this year to begin manufacturing operations by May 2022 and to produce between 5 and 7 million doses a year. The group is positioned to become the first developer and manufacturer of Halal vaccines and biotherapeutics in Saudi Arabia.

The financial terms of the agreement weren’t disclosed. Merck will support SaudiVax through the first phase of the partnership by focusing on design, equipment selection, construction and process development, the two sides said. 

The goal is to open a fully compliant cGMP manufacturing plant that meets international regulatory requirements. Merck will also train SaudiVax employees at its sites in Molsheim and Martillac, France.

RELATED: Merck marks a first with global health org to license its COVID-19 pill

Both governments and private industry have been scrambling to acquire or build new biologics manufacturing plants in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. The crisis highlighted supply chain issues as well as the promise of biologic treatments.

Supply chain issues also triggered a global outcry for COVID-19 treatments to be more widely available in low- to middle-income countries.

Last week, Merck & Co. took a big step in addressing the problem when it signed a deal with the United Nations-backed Medicines Patent Pool. The agreement allows the health organization to sublicense Merck's oral antiviral, molnupiravir, and supply the medication to 105 targeted countries.