Merck launches VirusExpress platform for cell and gene therapies

The platform helps to overcome lentiviral production challenges and can reduce process development time by approximately 40%, Merck says

Merck has bolstered its viral vector manufacturing capabilities with the launch of its VirusExpress lentiviral Production platform.

“Cell and gene therapies offer the potential for curative treatments and are being developed and commercialised in half the time it has taken traditional therapies,” said Angela Myers, head of Gene Editing & Novel Modalities, Life Science, at Merck.

“We are committed to accelerating manufacturing of cell and gene therapies with the ultimate goal of getting these lifesaving treatments to patients faster. By increasing dose yields and dramatically reducing process development time, this new platform will help us reach this goal.”

The VirusExpress platform uses a suspension cell line rather than an adherent-based production, coupled with a chemically defined cell culture media and process with built-in scalability. The suspension culture format allows each batch of virus to be larger. Additionally, suspension culture is amenable to true scale-up, while being less labor-intensive. The chemically defined medium eliminates the safety, regulatory and supply chain concerns related to animal- and human-derived materials.

VirusExpress offers a simplified upstream workflow, aiming to make processes easier to manage, adjust and scale. Flexible licensing allows companies to manufacture vectors by using either Merck’s contract manufacturing capabilities, a third-party contract development and manufacturing organization, or in-house development.

This offering underscores Merck’s continued investment in cell and gene therapies. In April 2020, the company announced a $117m, 140,000 sqft manufacturing center at its Carlsbad, California, USA, location, which will double the existing production capacity and support large-scale commercial manufacturing.

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