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EMD Serono headquarters plans to join biopharma cluster in Boston’s Seaport

The company, a US arm of Germany’s Merck, will close its Rockland facility

EMD Serono is moving its headquarters from Rockland to the Seaport District, joining a growing biotech cluster.David L. Ryan/Globe Staff

EMD Serono, the American drug development arm of Germany’s Merck KGaA, plans to move its headquarters from the South Shore town of Rockland to Boston’s Seaport district next summer.

The company will join more than two dozen life sciences companies, including biopharma giants Vertex and Eli Lilly, that have moved to or are constructing buildings in the Seaport. Once a neighborhood of warehouses and parking lots, the Seaport has emerged as the state’s second-largest drug discovery cluster after Cambridge’s Kendall Square.

“Being present in the Boston area is very significant for us,” said EMD Serono president Chris Round, “because it’s arguably the preeminent science and health care and medical hub anywhere in the world. ... The rise of the Seaport over the past 10 years has been exciting.”

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The company will occupy two floors and 60,528 square feet of space at 200 Pier 4 Boulevard, with an option to expand. The new headquarters can initially accommodate 200 employees.

About 400 employees — nearly a quarter working remotely — are now assigned to EMD Serono’s Rockland facility. Company officials said all those employees will keep their jobs, but some of those working in the office will be asked to work remotely or in hybrid roles.

“We see this as a post-COVID opportunity to cement a hybrid way of working for the long term,” Round said. “We’re not going to go back to a pre-COVID, everyone’s-in-the-office-all-the-time mode of operation.”

EMD Serono, which sells multiple sclerosis and fertility drugs, hopes to launch a new MS drug in 2025 and a therapy for head and neck cancer in 2026. Round said the move to the Seaport will lay the groundwork for the company’s next phase of growth, making it easier to attract Boston area talent and forge partnerships with academic research labs.

“We feel like moving to the Seaport can be accomplished with minimal disruption,” Round said. He acknowledged that “traffic-wise, it can be problematic” for employees coming from Plymouth County but said the commute would be easier than getting to Cambridge.

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Merck KGaA, a 355-year-old health care, chemical, and electronics conglomerate based in Darmstadt, Germany, was forced to divest its US operations during World War I. Those operations now do business under the name Merck & Co., a separate and larger drug company.

Germany’s Merck revived its US drug development business in 2007 when it acquired Geneva-based Serono and its American division in Rockland. But it’s prohibited from using the name Merck in the United States, so it operates under the name EMD Serono. (Merck KGaA also operates a sister division, life sciences supply company MilliporeSigma, based in Burlington.)

In addition to its Rockland headquarters, EMD Serono has a research site in Billerica, with about 250 employees, and about 400 sales and other field employees working across the country. Those teams won’t be affected by the move to the Seaport.

Round, a British native, took the helm at EMD Serono two and a half years ago after heading its European and international operations. He previously worked for 20 years at US drug maker Merck & Co.


Robert Weisman can be reached at robert.weisman@globe.com.