DURHAM, N.C.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Merck announced today that its Durham, North Carolina, vaccine manufacturing facility has completed start-up activities and is beginning to validate production processes, a major step toward regulatory approval and licensure of the new facility. When licensed, the site will produce key childhood vaccines for measles, mumps, rubella and chickenpox, as well as a vaccine for shingles in older adults. Merck makes 11 of the 17 diseases on the pediatric, adolescent and adult recommended immunization schedules in the United States.
Merck also announced today that it is naming the new facility in memory of its most distinguished vaccine researcher, the late Maurice R. Hilleman, Ph.D. During his 30 years at Merck, Dr. Hilleman developed vaccines for eight of the diseases for which vaccines are routinely recommended for children in the United States, including measles, mumps and rubella. The facility will be named The Maurice R. Hilleman Center for Vaccine Manufacturing.
The announcement was made at a ceremony at the facility that featured Merck Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer, Richard T. Clark, as well as key state and local officials instrumental in the development of the new site. Dr. Hilleman's widow, Lorraine Hilleman, and daughter, Kirsten Hilleman Slamowitz, who herself received the mumps vaccine developed by her father, were also in attendance.
"Vaccines have always been an integral part of Merck's business and our contribution to public health and saving lives," said Mr. Clark. "The startup of this new site in Durham, new investments in vaccine facilities at West Point, Pennsylvania, and our intent to build a new vaccine plant in Carlow, Ireland, are all testimony that Merck intends to continue building on the legacy of Dr. Hilleman in providing high quality vaccines that prevent diseases and enhance health care for millions around the world."
The Maurice R. Hilleman Center for Vaccine Manufacturing is the result of a project that began in 2004 when Merck announced plans to locate a new facility in Treyburn Corporate Park in Durham. Since 2004, Merck has announced two expansions to the project, bringing total planned investment at the site to date to approximately $750 million. As many as 400 jobs may be created when the project is completed in 2011.
One of the world's most noted vaccine researchers, Dr. Hilleman has been credited by his peers for helping to save more lives than any other scientist in the 20th century. In addition to vaccines that protect against measles, mumps and rubella, Dr. Hilleman played a leading role in the development of vaccines against hepatitis A, hepatitis B, meningitis, pneumonia and Haemophilus influenzae bacteria, and was the first to identify the "shift" and "drift" concepts of flu that are still used today in developing annual flu vaccines. In 1988 he received the National Medal of Science, the nation's highest scientific honor.
"We truly believe the honor is ours to have this facility named after a scientist who saved so many lives," said plant manager John Wagner. "We are pleased that Dr. Hilleman's legacy will live on in the work we do at this site."
"My daughters and I are so pleased that this wonderful facility is being named after Maurice," said Mrs. Hilleman. "I know how proud he would be if he were here."
Merck & Co., Inc. is a global research-driven pharmaceutical company dedicated to putting patients first. Established in 1891, Merck currently discovers, develops, manufactures and markets vaccines and medicines to address unmet medical needs. The Company devotes extensive efforts to increase access to medicines through far-reaching programs that not only donate Merck medicines but help deliver them to the people who need them. Merck also publishes unbiased health information as a not-for-profit service. For more information, visit www.merck.com.