UPPER GWYNEDD — An announcement by the White House on Tuesday has put one of the largest employers in the region in the global spotlight.

But there's no official word yet from Merck on whether their Upper Gwynedd facilities will help produce the COVID-19 vaccine. 

"We are steadfast in our commitment to contribute to the global response to the pandemic as part of the remarkable efforts of the entire medical and scientific community," said Mike Nally, executive vice president, Human Health at Merck in a statement Tuesday.

In an announcement at the White House Tuesday afternoon, President Joe Biden announced that Merck will help produce rival drugmaker Johnson & Johnson's newly approved one-shot COVID vaccine, comparing it to a wartime mobilization effort.

"We’re now on track to have enough vaccine supply for every adult in America by the end of May," Biden said.

Shortly after the official announcement, a Merck spokesman said in a prepared statement that the company was not releasing information on whether the vaccine would be made at facilities in Upper Gwynedd, including the West Point complex on Sumneytown Pike where the company secured approvals to expand a research building in October 2020, and separate approvals in mid-February to build a new production facility.

Upper Gwynedd Township officials said Wednesday they had no specific information beyond Merck's statement. 

In its statement Tuesday, Merck said the federal Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA), a division of the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response (ASPR) within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), will give the company up to $268.8 million to adapt and make available "a number of existing manufacturing facilities" to produce COVID vaccines and medicines, without specifying where. 

"This funding from BARDA will allow us to accelerate our efforts to scale up our manufacturing capacity to enable timely delivery of much needed medicines and vaccines for the pandemic," Nally said. 

Under an agreement with Janssen Pharmaceuticals, a subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson, Merck will support the manufacturing and supply of J&J's COVID-19 vaccine, by using Merck facilities to produce drug substance, formulate, and fill vials with the J&J vaccine. Janssen is headquartered in New Jersey and operates a "Horsham Campus" at 800 Ridgeview Drive in Horsham.  

"At Merck, we have a rich legacy in vaccine manufacturing and look forward to combining our expertise with Johnson & Johnson to help increase supply and expand access to authorized SARS-CoV-2/COVID-19 vaccines," said Sanat Chattopadhyay, executive vice president and president, Merck Manufacturing Division.

Merck had previously announced in January that the company was discontinuing research into developing their own COVID-19 vaccines, after finding immune responses inferior to those reported for other vaccines. 

"We are grateful to our collaborators who worked with us on these vaccine candidates and to the volunteers in the trials," Dr. Dean Y. Li, president of Merck Research Laboratories, said at the time.

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