Merck Canada has announced a $12.5 million investment in basic and translational research at three university-affiliated and hospital-based research centres in Montreal, Québec.

The three beneficiaries are the Research Institute of the McGill University Health Centre (RI-MUHC), the CHUM Research Centre (CRCHUM), and the Montréal Heart Institute Research Centre (MHI).

The investment reflects a shift to outsourcing in Merck’s research commitment to the Quebec province, in line with broader industry trends.

Canada’s life sciences heartland has been feeling the pinch of job cuts and facility closures in recent years, as pharmaceutical companies seek cost-efficiencies in their global R&D operations.

Merck Canada itself said in July 2010 that it would be phasing out operations at the Merck Frosst Centre for Therapeutic Research in Kirkland, west of Montreal, as part of a previously-announced restructuring following Merck & Co’s merger with Schering-Plough.

At the same time, though, came a pledge to inject $100 million over five years in biopharmaceutical research and development in Québec. This week’s announcement is the latest contribution to that programme.

Previous investments

Last March, Merck announced a $35 million investment in the Merck Lumira Biosciences Fund, set up in collaboration with Lumira Capital, Teralys Capital and other partners to provide investment capital in support of early-stage life science innovation in Québec.  

Before that, the company put $6.8 million into AmorChem, a Québec life sciences venture-capital fund, to boost the commercial potential of quality academic research carried out in the province.