Merck Serono is pushing further into biologics after announcing it will expand its flagship biotech centre in Switzerland.

The €300 million investment will create more than 200 jobs and will permit the manufacture of innovative biologic compounds for the treatment of diseases with unmet medical needs, particularly autoimmune and inflammatory diseases.

The expansion will also see an increase in production of the company’s cancer drug Erbitux (cetuximab), which is expected to start in 2012.

“The expansion of the Merck Serono Biotech Centre embodies our company’s primary commitment to bringing therapeutic innovations to patients with serious unmet medical needs,” said Elmar Schnee, President of Merck Serono.

Two new dedicated production suites with 120,000 litres of bioreactor capacity will be added to the facility by the end of 2010.

Merck is increasingly pushing into the biotechnology sector and just last month signed deals with biotech companies Theratechnologies and Lpath. In September, the company joined forces with Ablynx to co-develop therapeutic proteins for two targets in oncology and immunology.

Meanwhile, sales of its biologics are growing. Sales of the multiple sclerosis drug Rebif (interferon beta-1a) rose 10% to €338 million, while Erbitux jumped 13% to €134 million in the company’s third quarter earnings.