* CEO cites shortages in filtration products
* Also had to clear backlog in bioreactors, diagnostic chems
* Life Science unit has invested more than 425 mln eur since
FRANKFURT, Sept 16 (Reuters) - Germany's Merck KGaA
, one of the world's largest suppliers of materials and
equipment for the production of biotech drugs, is boosting
output capacity to keep up with a surge in demand from companies
fighting the COVID-19 pandemic.
Diversified Merck makes chemicals for the electronic
industry as well as speciality drugs, while its Life Science
division supplies lab equipment and plays a role in more than 50
global projects aiming to develop a vaccine against COVID-19.
"We are a very important partner for diagnostic firms,
vaccine companies and companies that want to manufacture
antibodies," Merck Chief Executive Stefan Oschmann told Reuters,
referring to a new class of potential treatments for people
infected with the new coronavirus.
Merck's Life Science division, as well as its competitors,
have been expanding to meet the increase in demand and to
support the global effort to mass-produce vaccines, he said.
Competitors of the business include Thermo Fisher
and Sartorius. The COVID-19 pandemic, which has
claimed more than 900,000 lives globally, has triggered a race
to develop an effective vaccine with 35 projects already testing
their candidates on humans.
Areas hampered by temporary shortages included filtration
products, where Merck has rushed to clear order backlogs, said
Single-use plastic bioreactors, which are replacing
traditional metal tanks for the fermentation of therapeutic
proteins, were also temporarily out of stock in some places,
requiring teams "to work day and night, so far quite
successfully", he added.
The company has also overcome shortages in its supply of
speciality chemicals that help extract viral material from
samples for the diagnostics industry.
The Life Science unit has invested more than 425 million
euros ($503 million) to meet growing market demand since 2017,
but the CEO declined to give detailed figures for this year.
The company said earlier on Wednesday at its capital markets
day that it now expected 6-9% revenue growth at Life Science
over the next five years, versus 5-8% previously.
($1 = 0.8448 euros)
(Reporting by Ludwig Burger; Editing by Michelle Adair and Mark