RICHMOND - Governor Timothy M. Kaine today announced that Merck & Co., Inc. will invest $57 million to expand the role its Elkton facility plays in producing GARDASIL®, Merck’s cervical cancer vaccine. The investment will include construction of a new building and the installation of equipment for the purification process—a key stage in manufacturing the product. Merck recently completed construction of a vaccine fermentation facility at Elkton, which will be used to support an earlier stage in the GARDASIL manufacturing process.
The project was announced during the Virginia Biz-Bio Event at the Virginia Biotechnology Research Park in Richmond.
“This announcement not only increases Merck’s investment in Virginia, it provides a vital vaccine for women’s health,” said Governor Kaine. “Implementing this new process at the Elkton plant shows the confidence Merck has in Virginia’s positive business climate and dedicated workforce.”
Merck, headquartered in Whitehouse Station, New Jersey, is a global research-driven pharmaceutical company. Established in 1891, Merck currently discovers, develops, manufactures and markets vaccines and medicines to address unmet medical needs. The Company devotes extensive efforts to increase access to medicines through far-reaching programs that not only donate Merck medicines and vaccines but help deliver them to the people who need them. Merck also publishes unbiased health information as a not-for-profit service. The company’s Elkton facility employs more than 700 people with $60 million in annual payroll. The facility was first opened in 1941 and is one of seven Merck manufacturing plants in the continental United States.
“We are excited about the Elkton facility's expanding role in vaccine manufacturing, especially for this important product,” said Dr. Charles Vencill, plant manager. “We appreciate the support Merck received from the Kaine Administration and local officials to help make this expansion possible.”
The Virginia Economic Development Partnership worked with Rockingham County, the Shenandoah Valley Partnership, Virginia Biotechnology Association and Virginia’s Center for Innovative Technology to secure the project for Virginia. Governor Kaine approved a $700,000 performance-based grant from the Virginia Investment Partnership (VIP) program, an incentive available to existing Virginia companies. The Virginia Department of Business Assistance will provide retraining assistance through its Workforce Services Jobs Investment Program for 30 to 40 existing employees at the facility who will work in the purification step in the vaccine manufacturing process. Nearby James Madison University and Blue Ridge Community College have offered to assist Merck by providing biomanufacturing certification and degree curricula to support the company’s long-term workforce training needs.
“Rockingham County is pleased that Merck has announced a decision to expand its Stonewall Plant located near Elkton to include the next phase of vaccine production,” said Rockingham County Board of Supervisors Chairman Michael A. Breeden. “This expansion, coming after the recent investment of an estimated $30 million to begin production of the vaccine, signifies a continued strong commitment by Merck to the Shenandoah Valley, and further strengthens and diversifies the strong local economy.”