Moderna to Open mRNA Research and Manufacturing Centre in UK

Moderna to Open mRNA Research and Manufacturing Centre in UK
The Moderna campus in Norwood, Mass. on Dec. 2, 2020. (Joseph Prezioso/AFP via Getty Images)
Lily Zhou

U.S. pharmaceutical giant Moderna will build a new mRNA Innovation and Technology Center in the UK in partnership with the UK government, with the aim to start producing vaccines in 2025.

Announcing the deal on Wednesday, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the UK’s first mRNA research and manufacturing centre will give the country access to “supercharged, homegrown vaccines,” “guarantee jabs in arms against some of the toughest viruses out there,” and create jobs.

The site of the centre is yet to be confirmed, but the government said construction could begin as early as this year, with the first UK production expected in 2025.

Boasting its mRNA COVID-19 vaccine as “one of the earliest and most effective vaccines against the COVID-19 pandemic,” Moderna said on Tuesday that it expects to produce a wide range of different mRNA vaccines at the new centre, “including vaccines against [variants of] COVID-19, seasonal influenza, respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), and potential other vaccines.”

The UK government also touted the mRNA technology as having “the potential to be a transformative breakthrough technology in a number of disease areas, including cancer, flu, dementia, and heart disease.”

According to Moderna, the new facility will play a part in the “100 Days Mission”—an initiative put forward by the UK government last year that’s aimed at churning out “safe and effective vaccines, therapeutics, and diagnostics within 100 days of an epidemic or pandemic threat being identified.”

The plan was welcomed by leaders of the Group of Seven (G7) and Group of 20 (G20) countries and backed by representatives of the life sciences industry, the government said in March in a joint statement with industry leaders.
According to the Financial Times, the £1 billion ($1.23 billion) deal will also see Moderna conducting a large proportion of its clinical trials in the UK.

Health Secretary Sajid Javid said the government was able to entice Moderna in the deal by offering a long-term vaccine supply agreement, and thanks to the country’s life science environment, the publication reported.

The UK government previously bought 60 million doses of Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine, which the company said may include authorized booster vaccine candidates for delivery in 2022 and 2023.

Global health authorities have largely seen the vaccine rollouts during the pandemic as an astounding success, pointing to the reduction of severe illnesses that followed the rollouts.

But some skeptics, including Dr. Robert Malone, a pioneer of the mRNA vaccine technology, have called the mRNA vaccines “genetic” and argued long-term safety data are yet to be accrued.