As Merck officials await regulatory approval to begin commercial production at a new vaccine plant in Durham, the company is cutting back other places.
Merck announced this morning that it plans to close eight research labs and eight manufacturing plants worldwide, as part of a broader cost-cutting effort following its acquisition of rival Schering-Plough last year.
The restructuring also is tied to a plan to eliminate about 15,000 jobs, or 15 percent of Merck's workforce.
Meanwhile, Merck expects to receive word this month from the Food and Drug Administration to begin selling vaccines made at its Durham facility. Two more phases of expansion at the plant are expected to be ready in 2012.
The facility is expected to employ about 400 people by the end of the year.
The cuts come as other big drug makers scale back operations amid increasing competition from generic medicines and slowing sales. In this region, layoffs have hurt employees at Pfizer and GlaxoSmithKline.
Merck will shut research labs in Cambridge, Mass., Canada, Denmark, the Netherlands, Germany and Scotland. The company will close manufacturing operations in Miami Lakes, Fla., Italy, Portugal, Mexico, Brazil and Singapore.
Following the site closings, Merck will have 16 major research facilities and 77 manufacturing plants.
Merck shares rose 43 cents today to $35.86 and are up 27 percent in the past year.