Taipei, Thursday, May 22, 2018, 22:05

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Merck and Taiwan Launch a Biopharma R&D & Training Collaboration Program in Taiwan

Published: May 07,2018

HSINCHU, Taiwan– Vice President Chien-Jen Chen on May 7 visited ITRI GuangFu Innovation Campus to attend the launch ceremony of the Biopharma R&D & Training Collaboration Program between Taiwan and Merck. The program aims at developing advanced biopharmaceutical production technologies and cultivating high-level biopharma talents in Taiwan, with potential benefits to generate NT$10 billion in industry value. Deputy Minister of Economic Affairs Wen-Sheng Tseng, ITRI Chairman Chih-Kung Lee, ITRI President Edwin Liu, the Life Science business of Merck’s Head of Process Solutions Andrew Bulpin, and Merck Taiwan Managing Director Dick Hsieh accompanied Vice President Chen on a tour of the production and training laboratory.

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Vice President Chen commented that precision medicine has become an important contributor to the development of biomedicine in recent years. A study by ITRI’s Industrial Economics and Knowledge Center (IEK) showed that the global precision medicine market stood at US$38.9 billion in 2015. This market is projected to post a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 12.3 percent in coming years, increasing the market’s size to US$69.5 billion in 2020.

The UK government in 2014 launched the 100,000 Genomes Project, which created a foundation for precision medicine R&D. Former US President Barack Obama, in his 2015 State of the Union address, sought US$215 million for a precision medicine plan, while the US Congress passed the 21st Century Cures Act at the end of 2016. This enabled the US Food and Drug Administration to screen pharmaceuticals and medical devices more quickly, thus encouraging innovation-oriented medical research. Taiwan’s own 5+2 Industrial Innovation Program features precision medicine as a focus industry to strengthen, addressing the need for public health care.

“Merck is committed to collaborating with the global scientific community to solve tough problems, innovate, and help advance the biotech industry,” said Udit Batra, Member of the Merck Executive Board and CEO, Life Science. “The goal of this planned collaboration with ITRI will be to ensure that customers have access to the technology they need to develop pharmaceuticals that accelerate access to health.”

Batra said that Merck has been working closely with the biomedical industry across the globe and understands the time-consuming nature as well as the complexity involved for the clinical manufacturing process. Therefore, Merck adopts a robust and reliable platform to accelerate the success of GMP production. In this collaboration, Merck plans to share the best practices approaches and education by industry experts, which may have the effect of further elevating the expertise to develop antibody-drug conjugates (ADC) manufacturing process in a faster, safer and flexible manner.

Deputy Minister Tseng remarked that the Biopharma R&D & Training Collaboration Program between Taiwan and Merck has consistently been a priority of the MOEA and the Executive Yuan's Board of Science and Technology.

Accordingly, the MoU that ITRI and Merck signed on March 26 envisions a comprehensive, long-term collaborative blueprint, he said. The initiative plans to cover three main areas: the introduction of advanced production technology, cooperation in state-of-the-art pharmaceutical know-how, and the cultivation of biotech talent. All of these, Tseng said, will spark opportunities for Taiwan to develop new drugs, generic drugs and drug contract manufacturing.

This will assist the industry in gaining a portion of the global pharmaceutical market, he added. Merck plans to share expertise and technology know-how in ADC, in conjunction with ITRI -developed ADC technologies used in precision therapies to fight cancer. This could open vast opportunities for Taiwan and help the local pharmaceutical industry generate more jobs, thereby further promoting economic growth.

“Through this program, Merck will provide specialized courses taught by their experts utilizing state-of-the-art pharmaceutical production equipment,” said ITRI Chairman Lee.

The training will prepare high-level biotech talents in Taiwan to assist industrial, academic, and research organizations in familiarizing themselves with international regulatory standards and innovative and effective production methods for a new generation of biomedical products. Nearly 120 high-level biopharma production professionals are expected to be trained in less than two years. Chairman Lee added that the planned collaboration would constitute an enormous boost for Taiwan in its development of ADCs, contributing to the growth of local biomedical industry.

The planned collaboration with Merck will help ITRI develop technology for the Chemistry, Manufacturing and Controls (CMC) needed for the Investigational New Drug (IND) associated with ADC production. This is poised to assist industry in reducing the ADC development timeframe by 3-5 years and decreasing R&D loss by between NT$200 million and NT$500 million, which will have a revolutionary impact on Taiwan’s overall biopharma industry.

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