350 years of innovation: the secret of Merck’s success

MerckInnovation and entrepreneurship have become the key driving forces of China’s supply-side reform. How will Merck contribute to this as well as China’s ambitious 13th Five-year Plan? The answer, says Marc Horn, Managing Director of Merck Biopharma China, lies in the vibrant innovation that Merck can trace back to its roots.

Innovating with profitable growth

The world’s oldest pharmaceutical and chemical company is now a leader in science and technology with global reach. The history of Merck can be dated back to Emanuel Merck’s reliable production of high purity alkaloids in 1827, which enabled scientists to repeat the same experiments again and again, a process that is the foundation of the ‘scientific method’ today.

Today, Merck is better positioned than ever before. In 2015, the company witnessed huge success. By acquiring Sigma-Aldrich and with the launch of a new brand, Merck successfully completed its transformation that started ten years ago. Net sales of the Merck Group rose sharply by 13 per cent to EUR 12.8 billion in 2015, a record high for the past three consecutive years. All three of our business sectors—healthcare, life sciences and performance materials—delivered organic growth. The door to our future success has been opened with research advances and future-orientated investments. “We must recognise that the time to act is now and we must allow ourselves to think beyond or classic business models,” as Stephen Oschmann, CEO and Chairman of Merck’s Executive Board said.

Merck wants to push the boundaries of knowledge in healthcare, life sciences and performance materials. This is why the company invests EUR 1.7 billion in research and development (R&D) every year. The new Innovation Centre is currently being built at our headquarters in Darmstadt, Germany. This state-of-the-art building will provide a space for exploring and sharing new ideas.

As of the end of 2015, Merck had launched 20 clinical trials designed to test the efficacy of an active ingredient avelumab. Lung, ovarian, gastric and bladder cancer are the most important indications. The results so far are promising and have been recognised by the regulatory authorities in Europe and the United States. We are convinced that Merck can make an important contribution in immuno-oncology and sustainably improve the lives of patients.

Unlocking a spirit of curiosity

In Merck, one belief is that culture inspires people and opens their minds to new possibilities. Various programmes are organised internally and externally to invest in the next generation of scientists. Living innovation is a culture at Merck. For instance, the Innovation Cup invites young scientists to share ideas and develop new approaches to medicine. Innospire is another global campaign that has been collecting ideas from within Merck since 2009 – it identifies outstanding product ideas and invests in the most promising projects that our employees have proposed. To date, the project has already collected more than 1,000 ideas from 50 countries with 30 patents filed. In 2015, the number of ideas from China ranked fourth globally, of which one idea even entered the ‘bootcamp’ phase for further processing.

In China, the ‘customer innovation campaign’ was launched from April to July, to collect ideas by actively listening to customers. The ultimate goal of this campaign is set to leverage the in-depth expertise of customers to improve Merck‘s existing product and service portfolio, to satisfy unmet customer needs and address outstanding customer issues.

In China, for China

Merck has been in China for over 80 years: China is part of Merck history, a key growth engine and one of the most strategically important markets in the world. It is fast becoming a global centre of technological innovation, and is a key hub in Merck’s global R&D network. Merck has steadily increased investment in China, adding new facilities each year across the whole value chain.

In 2013, Merck opened the Liquid Crystal Centre China, a EUR 30 million investment that integrates liquid crystal mixture manufacturing, R&D and sales and marketing. In 2014, a EUR 80 million pharmaceutical manufacturing facility broke ground in Nantong, Merck’s second largest facility, and is scheduled to begin commercial operations in 2017. In 2015, the expansion of a Liquid Crystal Lab was concluded in Shanghai. With the full portfolio of technical support, it greatly supports the full transfer of R&D, production and operations of Liquid Crystal to China.

Merck culture stands for the pursuit of innovation and its commitment to work closely with customers, and, in the case of Merck Biopharma, we work as one to provide leading healthcare solutions for patients. With our Beijing R&D centre established in 2009, Merck has started to work together with our global team, leading the rapid registration of global indications and simultaneous development of new molecules in China for local unmet medical needs. The release of TAILOR results form a good basis upon which approval could be extended to first-line metastatic colorectal cancer treatment in China. It is a fantastic result for the whole China R&D team. Merck will also continue to work with relevant authorities to make the metastatic colorectal cancer treatment available for patients in China as a first-line treatment as soon as possible. Merck also intends to raise people’s awareness of colorectal cancer in China, so that patients can seek help and start treatment at an early stage with the most appropriate therapies.

The 13th Five-Year Plan aims to address China’s growing environmental concerns and increasing social pressures. The country is experiencing a rapid ageing of the population, as well as problems associated with dangerous levels of air and water pollution, caused by years of rapid industrialisation. With the ‘new normal’ in China, of slower, more sustainable economic development, Merck’s focus remains firmly on delivering innovative solutions for patients and customers with ever greater efficiency, safety and quality across the full-value chain in China.

Founded in Germany in 1668, and spanning thirteen generations Merck has been a part of the first, second, third industrial revolution, and is now actively involved in the fourth. Its 3,000 employees in 96 cities across China make all of this possible for Merck. Across the nation, Merck people seek new solutions and the best answers for its customers. Through their passion for discovery, creativity and personal commitment, they build Merck’s success each and every day.