Drug maker Merck said Wednesday it received federal regulatory approval for its Durham manufacturing plant that will allow the company to graduate from filling vials of chicken pox vaccine to making vaccine from scratch for chicken pox, shingles, mumps, measles and rubella.
The approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration allows Merck to manufacture bulk material in Durham rather than making finished vaccine product from active ingredients shipped in from Pennsylvania.
Merck's $1 billion Durham facility opened in 2006 and today employs 1,100 people. It received federal approval to make chicken pox vaccine from prepared virus in 2010, but the company has been unable to grow its own virus here until now.
Merck will first switch to making chicken pox from scratch and plans to expand producing to other childhood vaccines by 2015.
The facility has the capability to supply the entire U.S. market with chicken pox vaccine.