Merck KGaA said today it will build an €80 million ($107 million) manufacturing plant in China where its Merck Serono biopharmaceutical division will focus on producing the company’s top drugs for heart and metabolic diseases.

The new plant will rise within the Nantong Economical Technological Development Area in the Greater Shanghai region (Yangtze River Delta area), specifically within BioSpark, an industrial park created to draw life sciences companies.  Construction will start in 2014 and be completed in 2016, with commercial production set to start a year later.

Drugs to be produced there include three that are referenced in China’s essential drug list: Glucophage® for diabetes; Concor® for cardiovascular diseases, and Euthyrox® for thyroid disorders. The plant will cover 40,000 square meters (430,556 square feet), with room for an expansion of 20,000 square meters (215,278 square feet) sometime in the future.

“This new facility will become Merck Serono’s second largest pharmaceutical manufacturing site in the world, and will help ensure that our medicines will always be available to patients who rely on them, which is a key priority for Merck Serono,” Allan Gabor, general manager and managing director of Merck Serono in China, said in a statement. “With our research center, our development capabilities, our commercial presence, and this new manufacturing facility, we are building for the future in China by investing across our value chain.”

Merck Serono said the new plant reflected its long-term commitment to China, where the company employs 1,250 people and has had a presence for 80 years.

The new plant is Merck’s second announcement this week of new activity in China. On Wednesday, Merck Serono said it will expand a six-month-old cancer drug collaboration with BeiGene, by developing and commercializing a second compound of the Chinese biotech—the preclinical poly [ADP-ribose] polymerase (PARP) inhibitor BeiGene-290—in a deal that could net BeiGene up to €170 million ($232 million) above an undisclosed upfront payment.

Over the past five years, Merck Serono said, it opened a research center in Beijing focused on biomarker research, including pharmacogenomics and bioanalytics; strengthened development capabilities across more than 400 key clinical study sites, recruiting more than 10,000 patients for trials across China; increased its commercial presence to improve service to patients and healthcare providers; and launched several collaborations with top-tier academic and medical institutions, as well as businesses.

Other units of Merck KGaA have advanced biopharma activity in China through the Merck Millipore Biopharmaceutical Technical and Training Centre, and a soon-to-be-opened liquid crystals manufacturing facility, both in Shanghai.

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