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Collaboration extended by a further two years
European Space Agency and Merck Expand Cooperation

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News, Pharmaceuticals

Merck, a science and technology company, and the European Space Agency (ESA) signed a Letter of Intent to extend by a further two years their cooperation agreement from 2016. The two partners will continue to cooperate intensively in the fields of innovation, digitalization and materials research. With respect to innovation, the focus will be on the fields of Biosensing and Biointerfaces, Clean Meat and Liquid Biopsy technologies.

“It is our goal to continue and intensify the exchange between ESA and Merck in a targeted manner. Scientific progress is the key to improving the lives of millions of people. Partnerships, such as this one with ESA, help to accelerate this progress and thus to achieve objectives faster.”

Kai Beckmann, CEO Performance Materials and member of the Executive Board of Merck

“The profile and strategic interests of both organizations complement each other superbly,” said Rolf Densing, Director of Operations and Head of the European Space Operations Center (ESOC) at ESA. “This allows both partners to openly share and make use of synergies in terms of competences, methods and tools.”

Merck and ESA began cooperating in 2011 and had most recently extended their partnership in 2016. The focus of the agreement signed today is on the following topics:

Innovation: Future projects will be derived from the three strategic innovation fields of the Merck Innovation Center (Biosensing and Biointerfaces, Clean Meat and Liquid Biopsy technologies). The aim is to make contributions that will further the development of human space exploration.

Moreover, both partners will further share their experience and competence in the area of innovation processes, for instance, in stimulating innovation in both organizations in the context of the Merck Innovation Center or via the newly established managerial position of Innovation Officer on the ESA side.

The topic of Biosensing and Biointerfaces focuses mainly on the interface between biology and digitalization. By applying data analysis tools, faster and more precise (remote) monitoring and treatment will be enabled  in numerous disease areas. The focus of Clean Meat is on the biotechnology required to produce genuine meat grown in vitro. The third innovation field targets technological solutions to overcome unresolved challenges in the liquid biopsy workflow to detect diseases sooner and more readily.

Digitalization: Digitalization offers significant potential for ESA and Merck. Both organizations therefore aim to continue the exchange between their scientists and engineers on new and innovative technologies such as automation and autonomy concepts, artificial intelligence, cloud computing, simulation, and Big Data, and virtual reality methods for laboratory and exploration activities on both sides.

Materials Research: The development of new, high-performance materials is a core activity of ESA and Merck. Potential collaboration fields include liquid crystal technologies, coatings, and semiconductors.

Beyond the specific development of innovations, an intensive dialogue on future topics is also part of the collaboration. For example, in recent years, a series of events and activities have taken place. These include a co-hosted hackathon as well as a presentation by German ESA astronaut Thomas Reiter for selected scientists at Merck in Darmstadt. At the Innovation and Leadership in Aerospace Conference in 2018 in Berlin, Kai Beckmann and Rolf Densing were members of a panel discussion entitled “Space meets Non-Space”. As the only non-space industry partner, Merck participated for the second time in a cross-industry challenge at ESA’s second Space Exploration Masters last year. The topic of the winning team was use of bioreactors in space to solve the problem of having an autonomous food and oxygen supply at a lunar base.

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Participation in a collaboration
Advance Vaccine Development and Manufacturing

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Merck and genOway Form CRISPR/Cas9 Strategic Alliance to Develop Rodent Models

Merck, a science and technology company, announced its participation in a collaboration with the Vaccine Formulation Institute and the European Vaccine Initiative. The effort will provide vaccine process development training courses within Transvac2, a collaborative infrastructure project under Horizon 2020.

“Involvement in this project is a natural extension to our longtime focus on accelerating vaccine development and manufacturing,” Udit Batra, member of the Merck Executive Board and CEO, Life Science. “Through the Transvac2 initiative, we are able to lend our expertise in vaccine research and development in this critically important field.”

Funded by the European Commission (EC), Transvac2 exists in part to accelerate vaccine development by enhancing European vaccine research and training and increase sustainability of EC vaccine projects by implementing a permanent research infrastructure for early vaccine development. Merck is among a list of collaborators joining the Transvac2 program.

As part of the program, Merck will hold a two-day training module in 2019 and in 2021 and will host applicants, selected by the Transvac2 Course Selection Panel, at Merck’s recently inaugurated M Lab Collaboration Center in Molsheim, France.

Participants will experience simulated lab processes, which will help them acquire fundamental skills needed for process development and will acquaint them with a single-use environment.

Merck’s focus, to find effective ways to accelerate vaccine development and manufacturing, includes collaborative work with leading research institutes and industries to introduce new technologies that advance the global vaccine industry. For this initiative, Merck is tapping its internal manufacturing expertise and process knowledge in viral vaccines and vectors.

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Turning the first spadeful
New Center of Excellence for meat portioning

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The MULTIVAC Group invests in a new Center of Excellence for meat portioning
Picture: Multivac

As part of an official celebration, the first spadeful of earth was turned today for the construction of a new factory at TVI Entwicklung und Produktion GmbH in Bruckmühl. A state-of-the-art complex covering around 9,000 square metres of available space will be built there, and it will include an office building and Customer Center as well as the production hall. Completion is planned for May 2020, and the total investment amounts to approx. 17.5 million euros.

TVI is the market leader in meat-portioning machines and complete portioning lines. The product portfolio includes solutions for tempering, pressing, portioning and automating, as well as grill stick winders and equipment for producing kebab skewers. Since January 2017 Multivac has held a majority share in the company – and with the construction of the new building it is now creating the ideal conditions for further sustainable growth.

A large number of guests took part in the celebrations at Bruckmühl, among them Richard Richter, Mayor of Bruckmühl, Alois Allgaier and Thomas Völkl, the two CEOs of TVI, as well as Multivac Directors, Guido Spix (CTO/COO) and Christian Traumann (CFO).

Continuing to expand the position in precision meat portioning

“The Portioning Machinery Business Unit is developing in a very satisfactory manner. By investing in the new factory, we are facilitating the expansion of our product portfolio and at the same time enabling TVI’s leading position in precision meat portioning to be consolidated,” explained Guido Spix, CTO and COO of Multivac. “The number of employees is due to increase from the current 120 to around 250 in the coming years.”

The new Center of Excellence for meat portioning will include a production hall of around 5,600 square metres for the Pre-fabrication and Assembly areas as well as the Logistics, Warehouse and Development departments. The new factory will use a deep-well system to ensure that the building is cooled by ground water.

In addition to this, there will be a three-storey office building with a total area of 1,920 square metres, in which a modern canteen, high-quality offices and a recreation room will be housed. “When designing the new facility with its state-of-the-art working environment as well as its various functional areas and meeting places, it was very important for us to create an environment for our staff, in which they feel at ease and can find all the requirements for their work,” explained Alois Allgaier, CEO of TVI.

A two-storey Customer Center covering an area of around 1,400 square metres, including several demonstration rooms and a Customer Lounge, rounds off the new complex. “This will enable us in future to offer our customers the ideal conditions for discussing and demonstrating our high-performance portioning solutions under real conditions,” said Thomas Völkl, CEO of TVI. “It will also be possible to carry out individual trials with customers’ own products, as well as testing the solutions for feasibility, output, return on investment, give-away and other critical factors.”

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Instant coffee in Vietnam
Freeze-dried coffee production plant for Tata Coffee

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Gea
Picture: Gea

Gea has completed a new freeze-dried instant coffee plant on a green field site in Vietnam for Tata Coffee Vietnam Company Limited, a 100% subsidiary of Tata Coffee Limited, India.

According to the timetable for the contract project which was signed two years ago, the new plant was inaugurated on March 6, 2019 – just 19 months after the groundbreaking ceremony.

Vietnam is the world’s second largest producer of green coffee, after Brazil. The plant in the Binh Duong Province produces 5,000 metric tons/annum of freeze-dried coffee. Gea supplied the entire production line from roast bean treatment right through to the packing of the freeze-dried powder using its proven technology. This included: Carine extraction which operates at optimal conditions, using precisely developed extraction times to obtain the highest possible yields while respecting the final product quality; aroma recovery; mechanical vapor recovery (MVR) evaporation; and a Conrad 600 XL Eco freeze dryer for highly efficient continuous operation with minimal energy consumption. The company also supplied a complete pilot plant, providing Tata with facilities where it can develop exclusive blends for customers.

Previous work carried out for Tata Coffee includes a coffee extraction and evaporation plant that Gea built for the company in India in 2013. Gea also has extensive experience of building coffee plants in Vietnam and this local experience was extremely useful as Gea project managers were able to provide Tata with support in sourcing experienced and reliable local partners for managing, utilities, installation and workshop facilities. The factory required nearly one million man hours to build and maintain an exemplary safety record. The site has been certified for LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) and is expecting BRC (British Retail Consortium) certification shortly.

Kim Knudsen, Head of Sales, Coffee and Freeze Drying at Gea said that the Tata factory in Vietnam had been a model project for the company. “This type of project is ideal for us at Gea because our expertise and scope of supply allows us to build the entire coffee line using our own resources,” he said. “This means we can maintain control and take responsibility for the entire project from start to finish.”

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