A €36m investment by Merck in its facility in Carrigtwohill, Cork will allow the life science company to double the production of a key component in Covid-19 rapid diagnostic kits.
The facility in Cork which employs more than 750 people is considered a global centre of excellence for the production of membrane products that are essential for a range of diagnostic and test kits. Merck's lateral flow membrane product was already in strong demand prior to the pandemic and was common in a range of devices including home pregnancy test kits.
With the arrival of Covid-19, there has been a surge in demand for such products which are used in Covid test and antigen test kits.
The demand is expected to continue with testing for Covid to form a key element of the reopening of the global economy. Rapid Covid testing is set to become commonplace in workplaces into the future and will likely form part of a return to global air travel.
Merck is close to the completion of a new K2 machine that will allow it to double the production of lateral flow membrane product. Testing and commissioning is underway and is expected to be fully operational in the third quarter of this year.
“The new K2 expansion will enable our Cork site, which is the Merck global Membrane Centre of Excellence, to more than double capacity of our lateral flow membrane, which is a key component in Covid-19 rapid diagnostic kits," Martin McAuliffe, Managing Director and Head of Cork Operations at Merck in Carrigtwohill said.
"Furthermore, there will be an additional multi-million euro investment in our Biotools department over the next five years. The Biotools department makes filtration and medical devices for the pharma industry, some of which are used in vaccine production. The additional investments will result in the region of 50 jobs being created over the coming years."
"Merck is proud to play a leading role in the global fight against Covid-19, we are involved in over 50 vaccine candidates, more than 35 diagnostic solutions and over 20 therapeutic solutions which use the latest in cutting edge technology," Mr McAuliffe added.
Both the membrane expansion and the biotools project were supported by the IDA.
Alongside Carrigtwohill, Merck's facility in Arklow, Co Wicklow is also playing a significant role in the fight against Covid. The facility produces lipids that form a key element of many of the Covid vaccines that are being rolled out globally.
Merck opened its Cork facility in 1988 manufacturing filtration devices and diagnostic membranes for analytical laboratories.