Merck Serono has begun work on the expansion of its Swiss biotech facility, with the additional capacity being used to meet rising demand for Erbitux (cetuximab).
The $374m expansion of the manufacturing facility in Corsier-sur-Vevey, Switzerland has also been earmarked for the production of treatments for autoimmune and inflammatory diseases, which are currently in clinical development.
When completed in 2010 the facility will have two new dedicated production suites with 120,000 litres of bioreactor capacity and an additional wastewater treatment station and logistic centre. Erbitux production is due to commence in 2012 following inspections from regulators.
Hanns-Eberhard Erle, executive vice president technical operations of Merck Serono, said: "This expansion underscores our commitment to excellence at all levels and will serve as a catalyst towards our goal of becoming a responsible world leader in providing specialist therapies.
“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 centers of excellence for biotechnology in the world."
Since opening in 1999 the facility has produced the active pharmaceutical ingredient for Rebif (interferon beta-1a) and therapeutic proteins for clinical trials. It currently has two production suites and employs 250 people.
Both Erbitux and Rebif have been performing well, with growth rates of 13 and 10 per cent respectively for the third quarter of 2008. This rising demand, and the need for capacity to manufacture other biologics in the pipeline, has led to Merck initiating the expansion.