Moderna to open massive UK covid vaccine factory

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Construction of the new Moderna facility is expected to begin as early as this year, with the first jab due to be made in the UK in 2025. Photo: Pasquale Gargano/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty
Construction of the new Moderna facility is expected to begin as early as this year, with the first jab due to be made in the UK in 2025. Photo: Pasquale Gargano/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty

Moderna (MRNA) has announced plans to open its first vaccine factory in the UK, as it hailed Britain's "world-class life sciences and research community" which emerged during COVID-19.

The vaccine maker will collaborate with the UK government to build a manufacturing centre for messenger mRNA vaccines for COVID and flu in a deal worth £1bn.

Under the deal, which is an agreement in principle and needs final approval from both sides, Moderna will also invest in research and development efforts as it seeks to be a world leader in responding to pandemics.

The Boston-based biotech firm has not disclosed how large the facility will be or where it will be built, although reports suggest it is considering between London, Oxford and Cambridge.

Once built, the centre will produce up to 250 million doses per year, including some for export. The 10-year deal, which will be finalised this summer, also includes working together on research and development.

Construction is expected to begin as early as this year, with the first jab due to be made in the UK in 2025.

The coronavirus pandemic has seen vaccines production in the UK ramp up. Over £200m of taxpayers' money was poured into building the Vaccine Manufacturing and Innovation Centre, during the pandemic.

The mega-facility had originally been envisioned as a smaller research and production site, which firms could use to develop next-generation shots, but the crisis meant its scale was dramatically increased. It's expected to be completed later this year, after its opening date was pushed back, and is set to be able to make 70 million jabs in as little as four months. The facility was sold to US company Catalent in April.

Shares in Moderna fell 1.9% in pre-market trading in New York.

It follows talks between Moderna chief executive Stéphane Bancel and health secretary Sajid Javid in Boston earlier this year.

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Javid said: "Our new partnership with Moderna will cement the UK’s status as a science superpower, significantly boosting the economy and creating jobs – and it has the potential to unlock the next generation of cutting-edge vaccines to fight diseases such as COVID-19, seasonal flu and RSV."

Bancel, added: "We are excited to be able to continue our collaboration with the UK government and Vaccine Taskforce with this new mRNA Innovation and Technology Centre in the UK. The UK has established a world-class life sciences and research community."

Commenting on the partnership, UK prime minister Boris Johnson, said: "Our investment will guarantee jabs in arms against some of the toughest viruses out there, bringing us to the forefront of the fight against future threats.

"We’ve all seen what vaccines can do, and today’s partnership brings us one step closer to finding cures for some of the most devastating diseases."

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