Merck Serono expands flagship Biotech Centre in Vevey

Merck Serono, begins a €300m expansion in Switzerland

Merck Serono, the division for innovative pharmaceuticals of Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany, has begun a Euro 300m (£245m) expansion of its plant at Corsier-sur-Vevey, Switzerland.

When built, the new facility will enable the production of greater quantities of Erbitux (cetuximab), as well as the production of potential future treatments in autoimmune and inflammatory diseases currently under clinical development.

Erbitux, Merck Serono's monoclonal antibody for the targeted treatment of colorectal and head and neck cancers, is currently manufactured in Europe on contract by Boehringer Ingelheim in Germany. It will continue to produce reduced quantities of the product, providing a second source to balance risk.

Elmar Schnee, general partner and member of the Executive Board of Merck KGaA and president of Merck Serono, said the investment was one of the biggest in Merck's long history and that it would cement the company's position as a leader in biotechnology, while contributing to the local economy with the creation of more than 200 new jobs.

Some 61% of Merck Serono's pipeline is based on biotechnology. Hanns-Eberhard Erle, executive vice president, Technical Operations of Merck Serono, added: "Through efficient manufacturing processes to scale up the production and the use of state-of-the-art technologies, the Merck Serono Biotech Center will continue to be one of the top centres of excellence for biotechnology in the world."

Two new dedicated production suites with 120,000 litres of bioreactor capacity, plus a state-of-the-art wastewater treatment station and a logistic centre will be added to the existing facilities by the end of 2010. The production of Erbitux is expected to start at the MSBC in 2012.

The site currently manufactures the active ingredient for Merck Serono's leading multiple sclerosis treatment Rebif (interferon beta-1a) for the global market, as well as various therapeutic proteins for the ongoing clinical trials in development at Merck Serono.