Merck’s Durham facility on road to completion

By Nick Taylor

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Vaccine

Merck & Co has completed start-up activities at its vaccine manufacturing plant in Durham, North Carolina, which is intended to further the company’s ambitions in the sector.

The validation of production processes has also commenced at the facility, which represents one aspect of Merck’s efforts to expand its share of the vaccine market.

Merck has named the facility The Maurice R Hilleman Center for Vaccine Manufacturing, after a member of staff who in 30 years at Merck developed vaccines for eight significant diseases, including measles, mumps and rubella.

Richard Clark, chairman, president and CEO at Merck, said: "Vaccines have always been an integral part of Merck's business and our contribution to public health and saving lives​.

"The startup of this new site in Durham, new investments in vaccine facilities at West Point, Pennsylvania, and our intent to build a new vaccine plant in Carlow, Ireland, are all testimony that Merck intends to continue building on the legacy of Dr Hilleman in providing high quality vaccines that prevent diseases and enhance health care for millions around the world​."

Since the project to build a vaccine facility in Durham was undertaken in 2004 Merck has initiated two expansions. These have taken total investment to $750m, with the plant predicted to create 400 jobs upon its completion in 2011.

At the Durham site Merck will manufacture childhood vaccines for measles, mumps, rubella and chickenpox, as well as a vaccine for shingles in adults.

Further progress in vaccine sector

Merck’s Rotateq (rotavirus vaccine, live, oral, pentavalent) has been awarded pre-qualification by the World Health Organisation (WHO).

The development makes the vaccine eligible for procurement by the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), UNICEF and other United Nations agencies for use in national vaccination programmes.

Rotateq is the first ready-to-use oral liquid rotavirus vaccine to receive WHO pre-qualification, which should expand the number of patients that have access to it.

Nearly all children are infected by rotavirus by the age of five, with 1.9m people being hospitalised every year as a result the virus.

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