Merck Buys UK-Based Biologics CMO Avecia

December 18, 2009

Merck & Co. Inc., (Whitehouse Station, NJ) has announced plans to buy the biologics business of the Avecia group (Tees Valley, UK), through a Merck affiliate (Merck Sharp & Dohme, MSD).

Merck & Co. Inc., (Whitehouse Station, NJ) has announced plans to buy the biologics business of the Avecia group (Tees Valley, UK), through a Merck affiliate (Merck Sharp & Dohme, MSD). Avecia Biologics is a contract manufacturing organization with specific expertise in microbial-derived biologics.

Under the agreement, Merck will acquire Avecia Biologics Limited and all its assets, including all the company's process development and scale-up, manufacturing, quality, and business support operations located in Billingham, UK. Avecia has two multi-product, cGMP facilities that can produce material at scales ranging from 100 to 5,000-L, for all phases of clinical development through to commercial manufacturing, in a range of microbial systems including Pichia sp. and E. coli.

"At Merck we continue to execute on our strategy of expanding our biopharmaceutical expertise and manufacturing capacity," said John McCubbins, senior vice president of biologics and therapeutic protein operations in Merck's manufacturing division, in a statement.

In December 2008, Merck established a new business unit for biosimilars, "Merck Bioventures," to capitalize on the company's investment in manufacturing technologies for producing glycosylated proteins in yeast, through its 2006 purchase of GlycoFi. In February of this year, Merck bought Insmed (Boulder, CO), acquiring Insmed's portfolio of biosimilar candidates (two granulocyte-colony stimulating factors, or G-CSFs) and its commercial manufacturing facilities. Those facilities include 50,000 square feet of biologics process development analytical laboratory and manufacturing facilities.

Merck says it will honor all Avecia Biologics contractual commitments and "engage in discussions" with individual customers relating to their future process development and manufacturing needs after the transaction is closed.

In November, Merck completed a $41 billion acquisition of Schering-Plough.

Financial details of the Avecia transaction were not disclosed. Closing of the transaction is subject to regulatory approval, as well as other customary closing conditions. Avecia's oligomedicines business, based in the United States, does not form part of this transaction.

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