Merck KGaA to build $115M Boston hub, aiming for a higher profile in biopharma hotspot

Big Pharma is all about beefing up its presence in the Boston area--a hotspot for biotech. And Merck KGaA is the latest to undertake a construction project.

Tuesday, the German drugmaker announced it was breaking ground on a $115 million life science campus in Burlington, MA, about 13 miles from where many of its peers have set up shop in Cambridge.

The Darmstadt-based company isn’t exactly new to the area; it currently boasts a facility in Billerica, MA, whose 850 full-time employees will relocate to the new building when construction is complete in the latter half of 2017. But the move will put it about 5 miles closer to the action in Kendall Square, where big guns such as Sanofi’s Genzyme, Pfizer, and Eli Lilly have all recently claimed more space in order to be close to biotech’s innovators.

It’s no surprise Merck wants to get closer to the industry’s pulse. Last October, it rolled out a colorful, futuristic rebrand to emphasize its focus on forward-looking technology.

“As a global leader in life science, we are committed to strengthening our presence in one of the most important science and technology hubs in the world,” Udit Batra, Merck’s life sciences CEO, said in a statement.

And it plans to house some of that technology in the new structure, which will include a state-of-the-art “M Lab” collaboration center. There, Merck’s scientists and engineers will work with customers to “solve their toughest life science challenges,” the company said. It’ll replace the company’s flagship M Lab in Billerica, and when all is said and done, it’ll have 8 sister labs in locales including Brazil, China, France and India.

The 280,000-square-foot facility will also include a training center, as well as office space, Merck said, and the drugmaker has an option to add an extra 70,000 square feet if need be.

The U.S.--which Merck considers an “emerging market” when it comes to sales growth for the company--isn’t the only place the company is expanding. Last November, it announced plans to expand its presence in Africa, with goals to double its workforce and sales on the continent by 2020.

- read the release (PDF)

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