Merck, through its Life Science business unit, has secured a €121m US federal government contract to build a lateral flow membrane production facility in Sheboygan, Wisconsin, US.

The US Department of Defense (DoD), on behalf of the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), has awarded the contract.

The contract is aimed at increasing the local production and supply of critical products for pandemic preparedness in the US.

Merck said that the new facility would support its overall strategy of its Life Science to expand the company’s physical capacity and regional network.

Merck executive board member and Life Science CEO Matthias Heinzel said: “With this agreement, Merck will construct a state-of-the-art lateral flow membrane production facility that will give our global in-vitro diagnostic (IVD) manufacturing customers greater flexibility and security of supply of our Hi-Flow Plus lateral flow membranes.”

The new facility will be designed to produce Merck’s Hi-Flow Plus lateral flow membrane, which is used in manufacturing rapid diagnostic tests, including for Covid-19.

The rapid test kits are widely used for detecting infectious diseases, along with women’s health, biomarker detection, drug testing, food safety and animal health applications.

Merck claims that its Hi-Flow Plus helps the test kits deliver reproducible results, based on its consistent quality and optimised properties.

Also, it has recently completed the construction of a second membrane casting line in Cork, Ireland, which expands its capacity for other critical reagents used in lateral flow rapid tests.

Furthermore, Merck’s Life Science business is undertaking a multi-year programme to enhance its capabilities for lifesaving vaccines, therapies and diagnostics.

Merck Life Science applied solutions head Jean-Charles Wirth said: “Our lateral flow membranes have earned a worldwide reputation for high consistency among rapid diagnostic manufacturers and the already robust global demand for this membrane has significantly increased since the onset of the pandemic.

“With this critical investment, we are expanding much-needed access to essential diagnostic testing as a trusted partner to the world’s most sophisticated diagnostic manufacturers.”