(C) Merck 2014 - Simon J.. SturgeMerck: Getting closer to biosimilars markets in Asia and Latin America

September 2015. Biosimilars benefit not only from Merck Serono’s expertise in manufacturing biologics, but also from close interaction with Merck Millipore (to become part of Sigma-Aldrich). The following chart shows the overlap between Merck Millipore and Merck Serono in 2010 *), at the time when Merck acquired the U.S. media and analytical instruments supplier.

Merck officially announced to enter biosimilars in 2012 and to locate the new pharma business unit at the company’s Swiss manufacturing sites (Aubonne, Corsier sur Vevey) for whose operations Jonathan Barnsley was responsible. From the beginning Thierry Hulot led the biosimilars unit until the end of 2013 when he was nominated Head of Global Manufacturing and Supply with responsibilities for prescription pharmaceuticals and biosimilars. Mr. Barnsley left Merck in April 2014 for Ipsen Ldt. at Slough (UK) where he is responsible for technical operations.

In February of last year Simon Sturge joined Merck from Boehringer Ingelheim (Biosimilars) to lead the company’s new unit which is set for growth in Asia and Latin America. Here biosimilars markets are developed in partnerships with company’s retaining manufacturing as well as distribution capacities (Dr. Reddy, India; bionovis, Brazil. In addition, Merck is stepping up biomanufacturing at its headquarters which reduces the overall weight of its Swiss operations. The importance of Merck’s strategic move to get closer to biosimilar’s markets (see also Andrew Bulpin in B2Bioworld) is further underlined by the recent nomination of Mr. Sturge to the commercial function of Chief Operating Officer including the General Medicine franchise as well as the biosimilars business.

Merck Serono Merck Millipore sites 2010Unlike launching biosimilars in mature healthcare systems, emerging economies have challenges of their own beyond relatively inexperienced regulatory agencies, heterogenous qualifications of healthcare providers, or lack of reimbursement. Buyers and patients are much more exposed to politicking (e.g. Zimbabwe offers vivid examples for pharmacological AIDS therapies). One way to overcome this is community disease programs like the one currently sponsored by Merck in the Philippines. Another route is point-of-care diagnostics (e.g. microfluidics devices) which allow for remote testing and are not anymore that much dependent on local doctor’s knowledge. Wolf G Kroner




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