Merck Serono has announced the creation of Ondaco, the fifth spin-off to come out of its soon-to-be shuttered R&D facility in Switzerland.

As part of Merck KGaA's controversial move last year to close the pharma/biotech unit's headquarters in Geneva, the Germany-headquartered group launched the entrepreneur partnership programme (EPP). As a result of the initiative, Marco Piermartiri, a former contractor, has set up Ondaco, which will manage IT support services and application development for all Merck Serono sites in the Vaud and Geneva cantons for a period of at least twelve months.

The services provided by Ondaco will have a total value of over 2 million euros and create 16 jobs for employees and contractors currently working for Merck Serono. Frederic Wohlwend, group chief information officer of Merck, said that "to be cost-efficient, corporate IT organisations can no longer develop and maintain all services internally. We believe that strong partnerships with a selected pool of external large-scale suppliers and smaller expert-focused partners like Ondaco are a key success factor".

Mr Piermartiri claimed that "starting an IT service business with the support of such an important, yet familiar key client brings a real advantage for Ondaco's early days". The new firm's ambition is to become a preferred business partner for other companies in the Geneva lake area, he added.

Ondaco is the fifth company to be created through the EPP, after Prexton Therapeutics (which will focus on Parkinson's disease), Quartz Bio (biomarkers), Asceneuron (Alzheimer's) and TQM Insight, an IT governance spin-off which was set up just earlier this week -  Merck Serono is committing more than 1.8 million euros in contracts to the latter over the next 18 months.