UK and Moderna Appear to Be Heading for Manufacturing Altar

Moderna_Adam Glanzman/Getty Images

Adam Glanzman/Getty Images

In a post-Brexit world, Moderna could become a key lynchpin of the U.K. pharma sector. The Boston-based company is reportedly in talks with the government to establish mRNA manufacturing facilities in that country, as well as collaborating with health authorities on clinical trials.

report from the Financial Times highlights the potential role Moderna could play in boosting the U.K.’s life sciences landscape and that country’s aim to become a global hub for biopharma – a position the government of the country was pushing for prior to its departure from the European Union in 2020. Moderna is considering establishing multiple U.K. sites in London, Oxford and Cambridge. Sites in these prime locations will put Moderna in “prime position” to collaborate with some of the UK.s top researchers on vaccines and therapeutics. 

The new manufacturing facility is expected to be adaptable in order to pivot to face emerging viral threats, such as the SARS-Cov-2 virus that propelled Moderna to the forefront of vaccine development. 

“The UK is ideally placed to become a life sciences superpower, and collaboration with world-leading companies is crucial to this,” U.K. Health secretary Sajid Javid said following a meeting with Stéphane Bancel, Moderna’s chief executive officer.

For Moderna, the move to open a site in the U.K. comes amidst the company’s planned expansion for mRNA manufacturing. Last year, the company announced its plans to open a state-of-the-art manufacturing facility in Canada to provide direct access to mRNA vaccines for the COVID-19 pandemic and future viral threats and respiratory viruses. 

Likewise, the company has announced plans for manufacturing facilities in Africa, as well as Australia. In Europe, Moderna partnered with Sanofi to manufacture its mRNA vaccine for COVID. The France-based company was manufacturing the company’s vaccine during the height of the pandemic. 

If the company follows through on its plans, the Financial Times said Moderna will, in addition to staffing its sites, also “hire people to run clinical trials with the NHS.” The U.K. government hopes the large patient databases maintained by the National Health Service will be a selling point for pharmaceutical companies. With the patient pool, the government hopes companies will be enticed to use the information in order to “carry out clinical trials more cheaply and quickly,” according to the report.

When the U.K. left the European Union two years ago, the impact on the pharmaceutical industry was significant. The country’s life sciences industry now accounts for about 3% of global pharma sales and no longer offers an automatic gateway to the much larger E.U. market. 

A key issue to the U.K. landscape is that its regulatory hurdles are now separate from the EU. U.K. government ministers have increased concern regarding the extra red tape some companies may have to go through in order to receive regulatory approval in that country.

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