Moderna ‘plans major investment deal in UK research and manufacturing’

A deal with the US drug firm would be a key part of the PM’s post-Brexit strategy

Moderna is in the late stages of talks with the British government about opening a research and manufacturing centre in the UK, according to reports.  Getty Images
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Moderna is in the final stages of talks with the British government about research and manufacturing deals, as well as participation in clinical trials run by the National Health Service, according to reports.

The US-based pharmaceutical giant is on the cusp of striking a major investment deal, sources have said.

Moderna has already seized domestic manufacturing opportunities in Canada, Australia and African countries.

Sajid Javid, the UK’s Health Secretary, last week travelled to the company’s site in Boston to meet Stephane Bancel, Moderna’s chief executive.

Mr Javid hailed a “fantastic” meeting with Mr Bancel and his team, adding: “The UK is ideally placed to become a life sciences superpower, and collaboration with world leading companies is crucial to this.”

Progress made in the talks between the Conservative-led government and the drug maker, first reported by the UK's Financial Times newspaper, has not been made public by either party.

If an agreement is reached, Prime Minister Boris Johnson would probably laud it as a key element of the UK’s post-Brexit strategy to establish itself as a global hub for the life sciences.

It would also offer a further boost for Moderna, one of the pioneers in mRNA technology.

By establishing a manufacturing facility that can be swiftly adapted to target emerging pathogens, Moderna would play a major role in helping the country prepare for future pandemics.

Meanwhile, the UK government is working on a plan to pump £6 billion ($8.12bn) into a scientific research fund, in case it is excluded from a major EU programme amid the latest Brexit row centred on trade between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK.

The global science package would be spread over three years and act as a Plan B option if the UK’s hopes of gaining access to the EU’s Horizon Europe research programme are dashed.

Horizon is the 27-nation bloc’s main funding programme for research and innovation, with a budget of €95bn (£80bn).

Moderna’s Covid-19 vaccine has played a major role in the UK’s Covid-19 vaccination programme. The shot was the third vaccine to gain approval for use in Britain when it was given the go-ahead in January 2021.

Updated: February 15, 2022, 3:08 PM