Merck Serono’s Pharmaceutical Manufacturing Facility, Nantong, China

A rendition of Merck’s new pharmaceutical production site Nantong, China.

Merck Serono, the biopharmaceutical division of Merck Group, broke ground on a new pharmaceutical manufacturing facility in Nantong, China, in August 2014.

It will be Merck's second biggest pharmaceutical manufacturing plant worldwide and will produce and package Merck Serono's leading brands of drugs including Glucophage, Concor and Euthyrox, which are used for the treatment of diabetes, cardiovascular diseases and thyroid disorders respectively.

The large-scale greenfield investment will not only strengthen Merck's presence in China, but also localise research and development (R&D) to further enhance its portfolio of medicines in general and specialised segments.

It will also make Merck the first and only multinational company (MNC) in China to produce drugs listed in China's Essential Drug List (EDL), which contains therapies meant to satisfy public healthcare needs and must be made available at all times.

The plant's construction is expected to be completed in 2016 and commercial production is scheduled to begin in 2017.

Merck's Nantong pharmaceutical manufacturing facility background

"The new biopharma facility in China will be dedicated to the bulk production of multiple types of dry forms of oral solid dosage (OSD) and their final packaging."

Merck announced its plans to build a €80m ($86.8m) pharmaceutical manufacturing facility in China in November 2013.

During the signing ceremony of the project, Merck announced a total investment of $170m for the pharmaceutical and healthcare industry of the country, making it the first MNC to establish manufacturing plants in China's domestic production of essential medicines list drugs.

Location of Merck Serono's new facility in China

The new plant is being constructed in the BioSpark zone of Nantong Economical Technological Development Area (NETDA) located in the Greater Shanghai region, approximately 100km north in the city of Nantong, Jiangsu Province, China.

BioSpark is a high-tech industrial park in NETDA that is designed to attract multinational and small and medium-sized companies to establish pharmaceutical manufacturing, R&D and related supply chain activities in China.

Nantong, the eastern coastal city of China, offers unique advantages in terms of geography, resource allocation, supply and other factors.

Facilities and construction of Merck's new manufacturing plant in Nantong

Merck officially inaugurated a new drug packaging facility at Hangzhou in April 2013.

The new pharmaceutical facility is being constructed in an area of 40,000m², with a provision for further extension by up to 20,000m². It will have a total built-up area of 38,000m², with the production building occupying 23,000m², the warehouse and logistics building occupying 9,000m² and the remaining by support facilities.

Both production and warehouse facilities are dedicated to high-level current good manufacturing practice (cGMP) activities. The support buildings will feature central utilities, fire fighting pump station, canteen and offices.

The plant is designed in accordance with the highest international standards in terms of quality, environment and health and safety to ensure the availability of high-quality medicines for patients. Sustainable measures are being implemented during the plant's construction in order to maximise resource efficiency and minimise waste generation during manufacturing.

Production at new pharmaceutical facility

The new biopharma facility in China will be dedicated to the bulk production of multiple types of dry forms of oral solid dosage (OSD) and their final packaging.

Focus will be, however, more on the company's leading brands of pharmaceutical preparations for the treatment of diabetes, cardiovascular disease, thyroid disorders and other diseases.

Contractors involved

Merck awarded the construction contract of the new facility to German high-tech engineering and construction company M+W Group in October 2014. The contractual scope includes engineering design, procurement, construction management and validation.

Merck's pharmaceutical presence in China

Merck has been operating in China, which is one of its eight strategic countries, for more than eight decades and is constantly expanding its presence. The company is a leading brand in the pharmaceutical, chemical and life science sectors of the rapidly growing Chinese market.

Besides the new manufacturing site in Nantong, the recent investments of Merck in China include a pharmaceutical research centre in Beijing, a biopharmaceutical technical and training centre in Shanghai, and a liquid crystals production unit in Shanghai.