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UK Life Sciences

Volume 716: debated on Wednesday 22 June 2022

The life sciences have played an essential role in helping us to learn to live with covid-19. The UK’s natural strengths, and our world-beating vaccine programme, have allowed us to lead the way in this. As we learn the lessons of covid-19, it is essential that we take steps to further strengthen UK life sciences and our resilience against both future threats and a possible future resurgence in covid-19.

To date over £380 million has been invested to secure and scale up the UK’s vaccine manufacturing capabilities and we have ambitious plans to invest more alongside industry to further our domestic vaccine resilience. As announced in the spending review in October 2021, the Government have now made available £9.6 billion for key covid-19 programmes and related health spending and continues to work closely with industry to ensure our life sciences sector thrives.

Looking to the future, we are determined to take action to secure further investment into the UK’s thriving life science industry and cement our position as a science superpower. To that end, the Government have agreed a detailed heads of terms with Moderna to create a strategic partnership over the next decade. A binding contract will be negotiated with Moderna over the coming weeks and, subject to approval of a full business case, will be in place by early Autumn. The proposed partnership, led by the vaccine taskforce, will strengthen domestic mRNA capability and better equip the UK to respond to covid-19 and future health emergencies.

Moderna would establish their global research & development centre in the UK as part of an R&D strategic partnership, siting R&D capability onshore, with academic and wider vaccine ecosystem engagement, including extensive use of the clinical trials network in the UK. Their facilities would support vaccines not just against covid-19 but other diseases such as flu and RSV. The industry-leading, future-proof design of the plant will permit the addition of capability to manufacture a wide range of medicines and will be a massive boost to the UK’s R&D capability. The site will also allow the UK to be better prepared in the event of future health emergencies. The project, which will provide an important boost to the local economy and to the country’s life sciences sector, was developed with the support and collaboration of the vaccine taskforce and will be a key investment to bring novel technologies and pandemic resilience onshore in the UK.

A consistent and resilient supply of covid-19 vaccines will be critical in protecting against a possible future resurgence in covid-19, ensuring jabs are provided in time to protect those who are most vulnerable to serious covid-19. That is why one of the objectives given to the vaccine taskforce was to strengthen the UK’s onshoring capacity and capability in vaccine development, manufacturing and the supply chain to provide resilience for future pandemics.

Moderna has demonstrated expertise in mRNA development and has offered a strategic partnership with Her Majesty’s Government under which it would invest in a new state of the art manufacturing facility in the UK for the production of respiratory vaccines. This would be capable of accelerating production, with UK priority access, in the event of a future health emergency.