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Moderna unveils plans for research and manufacturing centre in the UK

Medical staff and volunteers prepare shots of the Moderna Covid-19 vaccine (PA)
Medical staff and volunteers prepare shots of the Moderna Covid-19 vaccine (PA)

American pharmaceutical giant Moderna will open a new research and manufacturing centre in the UK.

It is hoped the move will guarantee British patients fast access to new vaccines and treatments.

The new mRNA Innovation and Technology Centre will develop vaccines for a wide range of respiratory diseases, including Covid vaccines that can protect against multiple variants.

Meanwhile, a large-scale mRNA vaccine manufacturing centre will produce new and current medicines while creating new jobs, officials said.

Construction is expected to start as early as this year, with the first mRNA vaccine due to be produced in the UK in 2025.

Government officials said the deal will see NHS patients get access to “cutting edge” vaccines while being able to enrol in clinical trials for vaccines developed by the firm.

Moderna’s Covid-19 vaccine used messenger RNA (mRNA) – these vaccines teach the body’s cells how to make a protein that will trigger an immune response.

It is hoped the technology will go on to be used to tackle a wide range of diseases including cancer, dementia, flu and heart disease.

Ministers said a new strategic partnership with the firm will help “future proof” the UK against future health threats.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said: “We are bringing supercharged home-grown vaccines right to our shores.

“I want the UK to be the brightest and best in research and technology, creating more jobs and securing our economic future.

“Our investment will guarantee jabs in arms against some of the toughest viruses out there, bringing us to the forefront of the fight against future threats.

“We’ve all seen what vaccines can do, and today’s partnership brings us one step closer to finding cures for some of the most devastating diseases.”

Health Secretary Sajid Javid added: “Our new partnership with Moderna will cement the UK’s status as a science superpower, significantly boosting the economy and creating jobs – and it has the potential to unlock the next generation of cutting-edge vaccines to fight diseases such as Covid, seasonal flu and Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV).

“mRNA is a truly transformational technology and we have seen its life-saving power during the pandemic.

“Thanks to this new deal, NHS patients will benefit from scientific breakthroughs and the new state-of-the-art manufacturing centre will boost our ability to respond to the next pandemic by ensuring we’re able to produce vaccines rapidly on our own shores.”

And Stephane Bancel, Moderna chief executive, said: “We are excited to be able to continue our collaboration with the UK Government and Vaccine Taskforce with this new mRNA Innovation and Technology Centre in the UK.

“We are committed to global public health, and as we continue to expand internationally, we are pleased to bring local mRNA manufacturing to the UK.

“We look forward to establishing our R&D (research and development) activities and capabilities in the country.”

The Government’s chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance said the announcement is “great news for the UK’s R&D activities and future capabilities”.

He added: “Rapid cutting-edge vaccines were vital in the response to the Covid pandemic.

“Developing the next generation of mRNA vaccines will be crucial in boosting our ability to prevent and respond to a wide range of respiratory diseases in the future.”