MSD repurposing dormant Irish site and hiring 350 to support Keytruda

By Dan Stanton

- Last updated on GMT


Related tags Immune system

Merck Sharp & Dohme (MSD) plans to build a biologics facility at a former small molecule manufacturing site in Swords, Ireland, which it closed last year.

In 2013​, MSD (known as Merck & Co. in North America) announced it was shutting its women’s health, anesthesia and psychiatry finished formulation facility in Swords, County Dublin with a loss of 570 jobs.

Swords closed its doors last year and was put up for sale​, but the firm has now decided to repurpose the site to support production of its immune-oncology portfolio, and in particular, its bestselling cancer antibody Keytruda (pembrolizumab), an MSD spokesperson told us.

“We were actively partnering with agencies to find a suitable successor for the site, and there were a lot of interested parties,”​ the spokesperson said. However, they added the growth of its biologics business meant an additional biomanufacturing capabilities are needed.

By building on an old site and harnessing the equipment within the firm will be able to achieve its ambition of bringing a new biomanufacturing facility online by 2021.

It will be an entirely new facility at the site in Swords. It is still owned by MSD so we will be building within the shell of the former facility with a view to dismantle the shell once construction is complete.”

Planning is in its infancy but MSD expects to create 350 jobs by the time the facility opens, including 50 in the next year in mostly overseeing roles in the facility design. The spokesperson said it is too early to comment on further details and potential costs.

Keytruda, a humanized antibody used in cancer immunotherapy, is MSD’s second largest selling product. In 2017, the drug clocked in sales of $3.8bn for the firm, up 172% on the previous year.

This will be the latest investment in Keytruda and Ireland for MSD, which last year​ committed $280m to biomanufacturing in the country.

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