NHS said to be central to Moderna interest in UK facility

Moderna is reportedly in late-stage negotiations with the UK government that could result in a new research and manufacturing facility being set up in the biotech ‘golden triangle’ between London, Oxford and Cambridge.

The development has been prompted by a desire on the behalf of the US biotech to collaborate with the NHS, according to a report in the Financial Times, which cites people familiar with the matter.

The company indicated it would hire people to run clinical trials within the health service, according to the article. The government is hoping access to NHS patients for clinical testing as well as the UK’s academic expertise will be a draw for biopharma companies and encourage inward investment.

Moderna is flush with money to invest in capital projects following the success of its mRNA-based COVID-19 vaccine SpikeVax, which has been tipped to make up to $18 billion in full-year 2021 sales. It is due to reports its results for last year on 24 February.

The rumoured negotiations follow a meeting between UK Health Secretary Sajid Javid and Moderna’s chief executive Stephane Bancel in Boston last week, after which Javid tweeted:

If confirmed, the facility would be a boost to the UK’s future pandemic preparedness as well as its standing as a post-Brexit hub for life sciences, although it would not be unique.

Moderna has already announced deals to build research units in Australia and Canada since its financial muscle was swelled by the pandemic, and has said it is planning to build a $500 million manufacturing hub in Africa.

The UK does seem to be enjoying a purple patch of investment growth at the moment however, with a report from the BioIndustry Association (BIA) and Clarivate suggesting 2021 was a record year for the sector, with £4.5 billion ($6 billion) raised in public and private financings.

The BIA warned however that the large fundraises seen in 2021 came largely as the result of overseas investment, meaning that significant value creation will be offshored.

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