Merck Canada R&D initiatives
Merck Canada has a tradition of scientific excellence and customer service. The present-day position of Merck as one of the world's leading innovative pharmaceutical companies owes much to this heritage.
In 1899, Charles E. Frosst founded his company in Montréal with $5,000 in investment capital and four associates. At first the company manufactured mainly old-fashioned remedies, such as cough syrup and tonics.
In 1910, it introduced two products based on acetylsalicylic acid (ASA) that would remain popular for three-quarters of a century and begin a heritage of expertise in inflammation and pain: the analgesic tablets 217® (ASA+caffeine) and 222® (ASA+caffeine+codeine), so called because they were respectively the 217th and 222nd items in the tablet section of the catalogue.
Tablet 217®was the first to combine caffeine with ASA for muscle pain and headaches and it competed successfully against Bayer's Aspirin® (ASA). Tablet 222® added codeine to the formulation. The legacy begun with 217® and 222® continued over the decades with medications such as INDOCID® (indomethacin), DOLOBID® (diflunisal), CLINORIL® (sulindac) and ENTROPHEN® (ASA).
In 1965, Frosst was purchased by Merck & Co., Inc., an organization well-known for its research tradition.
An innovative pharmaceutical business needs the inspiration and partnership of the wider scientific community to keep its innovation alive. Merck Canada has always been clear-sighted about the importance of nurturing Canadian scientific excellence. Indeed, the firm awarded its first scholarship in 1900, only one year after going into business, thus beginning a long tradition of support for education and research in Canadian schools and universities.
One of the most significant contributions of Merck Canada in terms of R&D is certainly the discovery and development of montelukast sodium, now called SINGULAIR®, used for the chronic treatment of asthma. SINGULAIR® received Health Canada approval for commercialization on June 17, 1998.
In 2000, SINGULAIR® was awarded the Prix Galien Canada 2000 Innovative Product, and the scientists who developed SINGULAIR® were awarded the Prix Galien Research for their efforts.
Merck remains committed to maintaining a strong presence in the life sciences and innovation sector in Québec and Canada, and will continue to invest in academic, biotechnology and clinical research collaborations to supplement and advance its internal research programs globally. As part of this commitment, Merck announced that, starting in 2010 and continuing over the next five years, it would invest an additional C$100 million in biopharmaceutical research and development collaborations with Québec-based companies and academic institutions.
In February 2010, Merck partnered with the B.C. Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS for its "Seek and Treat" research program to reduce HIV/AIDS incidence in B.C. In 2011, Merck Canada announced a $6.8 million investment in AmorChem, a Québec life sciences venture capital fund, as well as a new $5 million investment in the Québec Consortium for Drug Discovery (CQDM), another major organization supporting early-stage biopharmaceutical research in Québec.
Last but not least, in all the clinical research Merck conducts around the world, Canada is one of the most important subsidiaries with respect to the number of clinical trials carried out. To date, in 2011, Merck has administered more than 71 programs nationwide at over 766 sites and involving more than 13,000 patients in total. These figures are a testament to Merck's high level of confidence in the ability of Canada's and Québec's healthcare system to lead high-quality clinical studies.