Drug giant MSD seeks permission for major expansion of Carlow plant

Company expects to add 170 jobs to 400-plus already working at manufacturing plant

Pharmaceutical company MSD has submitted plans for a major expansion of its Carlow facility. Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons

Drug giant MSD has applied for planning permission for a major expansion of its Carlow manufacturing plant.

The company, which trades as Merck in the United States and Canada, expects to add 170 jobs to the 400-plus already working in Carlow as it grows its capacity for biologics and vaccines at the site.

The company, which submitted planning applications this week to Carlow County Council, expects the new facilities to be in operation in 2022. The new facility, announced last October, will be built on a green-field site adjacent to the company's existing plant in the town.

Carlow was the drug group’s first vaccine manufacturing site outside the United States under a previous investment in 2008.


Merck is currently one of the top two players in the fast-growing vaccines market with British group GlaxoSmithKline. It is a market that is expected to grow by close to 50 per cent by 2024.


Merck’s recent success has been built on the HPV vaccine Gardasil and it also sells chickenpox vaccine, Varivax, which is among the top five vaccines globally by sales.

The company is proposing to build a two-storey production building with a floor area of 8,782sq m (94,000sq ft) and a maximum height of 14.6m (just under 48ft). It will house two production suites – a syringe filling and inspection suite and a vial filling suite.

The development will also include a large extension to an existing warehouse building and ancillary buildings, including new laboratory facilities. The company is also seeking permission for 190 new car-parking spaces.

MSD is also developing a new biologics plant in Swords on the site of its former women’s health unit. That is expected to open in 2021 and will focus on manufacturing Merck’s top-selling cancer drug, Keytruda.

MSD currently employs approximately 2,000 employees at sites in Carlow, Cork, Dublin and Tipperary.

Dominic Coyle

Dominic Coyle

Dominic Coyle is Deputy Business Editor of The Irish Times