J&J and Merck team with UK gov on $97m vaccine manufacturing center

The UK government-led Vaccines Manufacturing Innovation Centre will have pilot and medium-scale capacity and the ability to respond to threats of serious infections.

The center, to be built in Oxford, UK will focus on the production of vaccines for outbreaks of diseases such as Ebola and Lassa fever, bridging the gap between academia and industry.

The project has been funded by the UK government’ Industrial Strategy, a business-backing program from the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy aimed at boosting productivity in the UK. The program has invested £66 million ($84 million) into the program in efforts to strengthen the UK’s medicine manufacturing sector, which the government says has declined over the past few years.

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“The medicines manufacturing and innovation center aims to reverse that decline by delivering radical improvements in productivity,” funding body InnovateUK said.

“The centre will be a focal point for innovation in fine-chemical or pharmaceutical manufacturing and will be able to prove the viability of production methods to relevant standards.”

A further £10 million ($13 million) of funding comes from Big Pharma firms J&J – through its subsidiary Janssen Vaccines – and MSD (known as Merck & Co. in North America), while bioprocessing vendor GE Healthcare will offer expertise and training.

The center is expected to open in 2022 and will have pilot and medium-scale manufacturing capacity.

Brexit ahead

UK Business Secretary Greg Clark said: “The government is investing in pioneering vaccine manufacturing as part of our modern Industrial Strategy to create more highly skilled jobs, place the NHS at the forefront of cutting-edge technologies and deliver the biggest increase in public investment in research and development in UK history.”

However, as (at the time of publication at least) the UK is set to enter unchartered waters by leaving the European Union. We asked the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy how Brexit will affect this new venture.

“As we establish our new relationship with Europe, the Industrial Strategy will help us seize the opportunity of that deal and look to build the foundations behind our withdrawal agreement.  Our prosperity and ability to build a strong economy is dependent on how we encourage innovation, develop high quality jobs and skills, and support businesses throughout the UK to thrive and grow.”

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