The biopharmaceutical company will invest more than $650m (€583.18m) to build a new US production facility at its Maurice R. Hilleman Center for Vaccine Manufacturing in Durham, North Carolina, as well as developing its packaging operations at its Wilson, North Carolina site.
The additional site in Durham will enable the company to expand its operations to meet the growing demand for Gardasil and Gardasil 9, recombinant human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine used to prevent several cancers. The vaccine aims to prevent nine strains of HPV, including two that cause an estimated 70% of cervical cancers.
Merck, known as MSD outside the US and Canada, plans to design and build the 225,000-square-foot facility to produce an active ingredient for the vaccine Gardasil 9.
According to the company, the facility will be completed and online in three to four years, and is expected to create more than 400 jobs in the area.
Packaging operations at its Wilson site will see an investment of $30m to expand the facility and create 34 jobs.
Both projects in North Carolina will be facilitated by a Job Development Investment Grant approved by North Carolina’s Investment Committee. The project is estimated to add $3.1bn to the state’s economy over the 12-year term of the grant.
Gardasil leads vaccine sales for Merck, as it brought in $838m in the first quarter of 2019. Sales of the vaccine increased 31% from $2.3bn in 2017 to $3.15bn in 2018.
Space for the additional production capacity comes as the company announced it will no longer manufacture varicella bulk drug product used in chickenpox and shingles vaccines at the Durham plant. The product will still be produced by the company solely at Merck’s West Point, Pennsylvania, facility as “market conditions” have changed.