Merck KGaA says building work has started on its new 80 million euro pharmaceutical manufacturing facility in Nantong, China.

The plant, which will be the group's second-largest facility worldwide, will focus on the bulk production and packaging of its Merck Serono’s unit’s Glucophage (metformin) diabetes products, the beta blocker Concor (bisoprolol) and the thyroid treatment Euthyrox (levothyroxine). This means that Merck Serono is the only multinational in China to dedicate a large scale green-field investment to the production of therapies on the country’s essential drug list, “comprising medicines that address public healthcare needs and must be available at all times”.

The new facility, located in the Nantong Economical Technological Development Area in the Greater Shanghai region, will cover an area of 40,000 square metres, with a possible 20,000 square metres extension. Construction is scheduled to be completed in 2016, with commercial production starting in 2017.

Belen Garijo, Merck Serono chief executive, said “we have steadfastly aligned our focus and strategy with the Chinese government's efforts to increase patient access to quality care throughout the country”. The firm will now focus on localising production “to better cater to the demands of Chinese doctors and patients”, she noted, adding that R&D efforts in the country are aimed at building “a differentiated portfolio of medicines in China”.

Ms Garijo concluded by saying that “we are also creating alliances and partnerships with local partners in every part of our operations”. Headquartered in Beijing, Merck Serono China currently employs 1,400 people.