Back in 2006, Merck paid $400 million for New Hampshire-based GlycoFi (a Dartmouth spinoff) to boost its move into biosimilar products. The technology was a yeast-based platform for selective glycosylation of proteins, and GlycoFi had a point with their business model, because that can be both a crucial and painful process for producing an active protein therapeutic.
But by 2010, it became clear that the biosimilars move hadn’t gone as well for Merck as they’d been hoping. In 2013, the company signed another biosimilars deal that seemed to mostly leave it in the regulatory/marketing end of the business, while the R&D was done elsewhere, which made the whole GlycoFi acquisition look less compelling. The InVivo Blog speculated on this situation in 2014, but by then Merck had already been moving the scattered parts of the GlycoFi operation into one new central location at the Dartmouth Regional Technology Center.
Well, they got about three years out of that new facility, it seems, and I would have to think that the people working in it were worried about their jobs from the day that they moved into it. The press in the area is now reporting that GlycoFi employees have been variously let go and/or relocated, and their site is now vacant (which doesn’t do that Dartmouth technology park any good, either). Unless Merck is getting some internal use out of that protein glycosylation technology that no one’s hearing about, the entire deal looks more like a costly excursion. But there are a lot of those in this business. . .