Darmstadt, Germany, December 20, 2017 — Merck, a leading science and technology company, today announced that it has signed a commercial supply agreement to manufacture viral vectors for bluebird bio, Inc., of Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA, for its use in potentially transformative gene therapies.
“We look forward to collaborating with bluebird bio to bring breakthrough therapies to fight diseases for which there are limited or no options,” said Udit Batra, Member of the Executive Board and CEO, Life Science. “With 30 years’ experience in viral vector manufacturing, we remain committed to innovating with academia, hospitals and cell therapy manufacturers to accelerate access to personalized cell therapy for the patients who need it most.”
Under the multi-year agreement, the Life Science business sector of Merck will manufacture lentiviral vectors for bluebird bio’s drug products developed to treat a variety of rare genetic diseases. bluebird bio is a clinical-stage company that develops potentially transformative gene and cell therapies for severe genetic diseases and T cell-based immunotherapies for cancer.
Gene therapy involves the delivery of genetic material into patient cells to produce a therapeutic effect such as correction of a mutated gene or retargeting of an immune cell to fight cancer. To create personalized therapy products, genes are delivered into immune cells using viral vectors like the ones manufactured by Merck.
This contract builds upon Merck’s deep experience in producing viral vectors for gene therapy from clinical to commercial scale. The company has been involved in gene and cell therapy manufacturing tools and services for close to three decades.
Merck’s Carlsbad, California, USA-based manufacturing facility, which provides BioReliance® viral and gene therapy manufacturing services, has been involved in the gene therapy area since 1997, near the time clinical trials for gene therapy began. In October 2017, this facility completed both a U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) Pre-License inspection and a European Medicines Agency (EMA) Marketing Authorization inspection.
Merck’s investment in the gene therapy space includes a recent expansion at Carlsbad to nearly double its former production capacity — from 44,000 square feet to 65,000 square feet. The site includes 16 modular viral bulk manufacturing cleanroom suites with single-use equipment and two fill/finish suites for gene therapy, viral vaccine and immunotherapy products.
The company also has viral and gene therapy manufacturing capacity and has cell-banking services in Glasgow, Scotland. It has cell-banking services in Rockville, Maryland as well, and offers BioReliance® biosafety testing globally for both clinical and commercial stage gene therapy products.
Merck, a leading science and technology company, operates across healthcare, life science and performance materials. Around 57,000 employees work to make a positive difference to millions of people’s lives every day by creating more joyful and sustainable ways to live. From advancing gene editing technologies and discovering unique ways to treat the most challenging diseases to enabling the intelligence of devices – the company is everywhere. In 2019, Merck generated sales of €16.2 billion in 66 countries.
Scientific exploration and responsible entrepreneurship have been key to Merck’s technological and scientific advances. This is how Merck has thrived since its founding in 1668. The founding family remains the majority owner of the publicly listed company. Merck holds the global rights to the Merck name and brand. The only exceptions are the United States and Canada, where the business sectors of Merck operate as EMD Serono in healthcare, MilliporeSigma in life science and EMD Performance Materials.