Driven in part by a diversity of products in its pipeline, capability needs and other evolving requirements, Merck & Co. is investing $300 million in a state-of-the art formulation lab and experimentation center at its Rahway research site.
Construction will begin in the next couple of months with a target date of early 2021 for completion.
“With that new pipeline comes new opportunities in terms of technology requirements, and the other part goes to the evolving requirements in the industry around industrial hygiene and regulatory compliance,” said Allen Templeton, vice president, Pharmaceutical Sciences, at Merck.
The company, Templeton said, plans to use the facility to reinvent how it develops and manufactures products.
“We’re thinking about different ways we can be more cost effective and flexible and to be able to go faster from R&D into manufacturing with minimal technology transfer,” he said.
Templeton said Merck and other big pharma companies used to focus primarily on large volume, once-a-day products.
“What’s really changed is we’re moving toward more custom dosage forms — smaller-scale products that fit the niche of what we call personalized medicine,” he said.
Templeton noted there is a revolution taking place in the industry that’s being largely driven by oncology.
“We’ve been able to bring a lot of new products to market to address various cancers and those are requiring different sets of technologies and different approaches,” he said.
As a pharmaceutical company Merck has used traditional manufacturing and processing approaches that relied on large-scale fixed facilities, but that’s about to change, Templeton said.
“What we’re looking to do in the future is to use smaller scale portable equipment that’s flexible, that allows us to be able to use transportable manufacturing facilities and also to leverage new data-rich and digital tools that had not been employed in the past,” he said.
The company also plans on using digital approaches to streamline products and manufacturing costs.
“Some of our competitors are using similar approaches, but I think that the way we’re thinking about bringing it together is unique in this facility,” Templeton said. “We’re bringing a lot of different concepts together in this facility in Rahway. The uniqueness about what we’re doing is the scale of the investment and how we are bringing it all together.”