New UK Moderna vaccine centre to produce 250 million doses a year

Government teams up with Moderna to build advanced facility to future-proof against pandemics

A British government deal with Moderna will lead to a centre developing 250 million vaccines a year.  EPA
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A state-of-the-art medical manufacturing centre able to produce up to 250 million vaccines a year will “significantly boost” Britain’s ability to respond to future pandemics, the government has said.

In a contract signed on Thursday with the Moderna drugs company, the UK will be able to “future-proof” itself against mass outbreaks.

After the deaths and chaos caused by the Covid-19 virus, Britain, which developed the world’s first major vaccination programme, hopes the 10-year deal will ensure people have access to vaccines against future strains and other respiratory diseases.

Moderna has not yet disclosed the location or the cost of the facility but it has been reported that the site will be worth up to £1 billion.

The government said the deal with Moderna would cement Britain’s status as “a life sciences superpower” with people better protected against future global pandemics.

The new Innovation and Technology Centre will be staffed by 150 highly skilled workers with the capacity produce up to 250 million mRNA vaccines a year in an emergency.

When a variant to a virus is detected vaccines will be developed within 100 days at the centre, where the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) will work with Moderna.

The facility will also be able to develop vaccines targeting a range of other illnesses, such as flu and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV).

Steve Barclay, the Health Secretary, said Britain’s vaccine work had meant that “countless lives” had already been saved around the world and up to 150 million doses administered in Britain alone.

“It is vital we invest in fighting future Covid variants as well as other deadly viruses that are circulating, such as seasonal flu and RSV,” he added. “This partnership with Moderna will strengthen our ability to respond to any future pandemics.

A vial of the Moderna coronavirus disease booster vaccine. Reuters

“We are a step closer to becoming the leading global hub for life sciences. This partnership will support our crucial mission to protect the people of the UK and across the world through the development of revolutionary vaccines and research.”

Moderna worked closely with the vaccine taskforce during the pandemic, supplying Covid vaccines used throughout the roll-out.

The company is now committed to substantial funding in Britain’s research and development over the next decade including a significant number of clinical trials.

The mRNA breakthrough technology also has the potential to find cures to other disease areas, including cancer, respiratory illnesses and heart ailments.

“The new research centre will look to unlock this potential by developing revolutionary treatments in the UK, which will benefit NHS patients and people worldwide,” the government said.

Construction will start next year with the first mRNA vaccine produced two years later.

The centre will form a “vital part of our preparedness against future respiratory virus threats”, said Dr Jenny Harries, chief executive of UKHSA,

“This partnership will take the winning ways of working with industry and build the nation’s resilience, giving us rapid access to vaccines,” she added.

It is understood the contract will be worth several hundred million but the government said the details of the strategic partnership were “commercially sensitive”.

Updated: December 22, 2022, 2:41 PM