Merck & Co. continues to expand its vaccine manufacturing operations in Durham.
In August, the company plans to begin building a 40,000 square-foot testing lab at its massive campus under construction in Treyburn Corporate Park. The lab is expected to open in 2012 and employ 50 to 60 people, said plant manager John Wagner.
That's in addition to the 275 people now employed at the main vaccine operations, a total that will reach about 400 by the end of the year.
Merck is awaiting approval from the Food and Drug Administration to begin selling vaccines made at its Durham facility and expects to receive word in July. Two more phases of expansion at the plant are expected to be ready in 2012.
"The reason we chose this location was the availability of a highly qualified workforce, and that's what we're finding," Wagner said.
Merck also stands to receive state and local incentives worth up to $45 million if it meets hiring milestones. The New Jersey company announced plans for the campus on 262 acres in northern Durham in 2004.
Merck's expanding local operation adds to the Triangle's reputation as a hub for vaccines and pharmaceuticals. Novartis is building a vaccine plant in Holly Springs and Pfizer gained a factory in Sanford when it bought Wyeth.
On Tuesday Merck reported results that beat Wall Street expectations on stronger sales of the Singulair allergy medicine, cholesterol drug Vytorin and other products.
The company's shares rose 54 cents to close at $35.81 Tuesday and are up about 50 percent in the past year.
Merck's total first-quarter revenue more than doubled to $11.42 billion, boosted by its November deal to buy Schering-Plough for $41 billion.
“The first full quarter of results for the new Merck reflect our strong focus on driving revenue growth, maintaining the momentum of the business and reducing our cost structure,” Chief Executive Richard T. Clark said in a statement. “At the same time, we made excellent progress on achieving our integration goals.”
Merck is slashing about 15 percent of the combined company's workforce, or about 15,000 jobs, as part of its efforts to reduce costs. That follows similar cost-cutting efforts by other large drug makers, including GlaxoSmithKline and Pfizer, which are trying to offset slowing sales and increasing generic competition.
Excluding one-time charges, Merck's earnings were 83 cents a share, beating analysts' expectations.
The company predicts that the new health-care reform legislation will reduce sales for 2010 by about $170 million. The law includes bigger drug rebates under the Medicaid and Medicare programs.