Moderna in talks to set up UK research and manufacturing


Moderna, the US biotech company, is in late-stage government talks to invest in UK research and manufacturing and collaborate with the NHS on clinical trials.

The Boston-based startup – which rose to prominence with its Covid-19 mRNA vaccine – is set to accept a major investment, according to people familiar with the matter.

If completed, the deal would be a “key part” of the UK’s post-Brexit strategy to become a global hub for life sciences, one of the people said.

Talks

Health Secretary Sajid Javid met Stephane Bancel, chief executive of Moderna, for talks in Boston last week after he tweeted that it had been “fantastic” meeting him and his team, adding: “The UK is uniquely positioned to become a life sciences superpower, and working with leading global companies is crucial in this regard.

The company is considering sites in the so-called ‘golden triangle’ of London, Oxford and Cambridge, to put it in a prime position to collaborate on the search for new vaccines and therapeutics with top scientists, one of the people.

Moderna, one of the pioneers of mRNA technology, would hire people to carry out clinical trials with the NHS, and help prepare the UK for future pandemics by building a manufacturing plant that can be quickly adapted to target emerging pathogens.

Ministers are determined Britain can be a post-Brexit hub for life sciences, despite accounting for only around 3% of global pharmaceuticals sales and no longer providing a gateway automatically to the much larger European market.

The UK ceased to be a member of the European Medicines Agency, the industry regulator, when it left the EU and pharmaceutical companies must authorize their medicines separately for use in the country. It has raised fears that patients in the UK could end up at the back of the queue for new drugs, as companies may initially be reluctant to go through all the bureaucracy of a separate approval process for a relatively small market.

Yet ministers believe the NHS’s vast patient database can attract global pharmaceutical companies by allowing them to conduct clinical trials cheaper and faster. They also argue that outside the EU regulatory system, the UK will be able to review applications more quickly.

Scheme

Last year, Britain’s regulator, the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency, unveiled a scheme promising rapid approvals and manufacturing support for companies that choose to develop innovative drugs in the UK. -United.

Prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, Moderna had no approved drugs and only used its manufacturing facilities, just outside of Boston, to produce doses for clinical trials. The company has since massively increased production, in part by working with subcontractors such as Lonza in Europe.

Now it is creating a series of centers around the world and has already signed agreements with Australia and Canada for the domestic production of mRNA vaccines. It also plans a factory in Africa, which will be able to manufacture up to 500 million doses.

Moderna declined to comment. The British government did not immediately respond to a request for comment. – Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2022

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