German science and technology company Merck has scaled up its production of lipids to meet demand for their use in COVID-19 vaccines and treatments, the company announced on 26 May.

Merck provides custom lipids and other critical components such as synthetic cholesterol for lipid nanoparticle formulations and works in collaboration with other companies using lipid-based technologies to formulate COVID-19 vaccines and treatment.

As part of the move, the company said it had introduced a new synthetic cholesterol product nine months ahead of schedule.

“With the introduction of our new SAFC synthetic cholesterol product, we have increased our capacity by 50 times,” Merck head of process solutions, life science, Andrew Bulpin said.

Merck, which manufactures lipids in Germany, Switzerland and the USA, said it was one of a few companies producing lipids in the quantities needed to meet demand for mRNA therapeutics, including the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine.

The new product launch followed the company’s acquisition of German-based mRNA contract development and manufacturing organisation AmpTec.

Merck said it was working with more than 50 companies to support their efforts in the development and production of COVID-19 vaccines and treatments, providing custom lipids, as well as other critical raw materials, processing equipment and services used in mRNA drugs and vaccines manufacturing.

In early February, the company announced the extension of its partnership with BioNTech to significantly accelerate the supply of urgently needed lipids for use in the production of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.

The company also recently announced the addition of a single-use assembly production unit at its Life Science Center in Molsheim, France, along with expansion projects in Darmstadt, Germany; Cork, Ireland; Buchs, Switzerland; Carlsbad, California; Madison, Wisconsin; Jaffrey, New Hampshire; and Danvers, Massachusetts.

Merck said it was aiming to double the local single-use production capacity at the Danvers site by the end of this year.

The Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine (BNT162b2), which is based on BioNTech’s proprietary mRNA technology, was developed by both BioNTech and Pfizer.