Patients in the UK will be protected against potential future global health threats, including potential pandemics, thanks to a deal struck between the government and Moderna.
The investment means NHS patients will be able to receive UK-manufactured mRNA vaccines, as the UK cements its status as a life sciences superpower.
The partnership with Moderna will see a new Innovation and Technology Centre in the UK, which will create more than 150 highly skilled jobs and have the capacity to produce up to 250 million vaccines per year in the event of a pandemic.
The deal is also a major boost for UK health research and will see the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) working with Moderna to ensure early vaccine development, supporting the G7 mission to get from variant to vaccine in 100 days.
The centre will offer NHS patients access to Moderna's Covid vaccines that can protect against multiple variants. It will also have the potential to develop vaccines targeting a range of other illnesses, such as flu and RSV, pending the usual process of the regulatory assessments and licencing.
Developing vaccines on UK shores means it will be able to scale up production rapidly in the event of a health emergency, significantly boosting our ability to respond to future pandemics.
This is the finalisation of the partnership, led by the Vaccine Taskforce, that was announced earlier this year in June.
Health and Social Care Secretary Steve Barclay said:
This time two years ago, the UK was the first country in the world to administer a Covid vaccine outside of a clinical trial. Since then, countless lives have been saved across the world and more than 150 million doses have been given in the UK alone.
It is vital we invest in fighting future variants of this disease as well as other deadly viruses that are circulating, such as seasonal flu and RSV, and this partnership with Moderna will also strengthen our ability to respond to any future pandemics.
By boosting our onshore vaccine manufacturing capability, 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 rollout, including in the ongoing autumn booster campaign. The Vaccine Taskforce and Moderna have worked tirelessly to develop this deal to provide onshore capability and supply resilience.
The company has now committed to invest substantial funding in UK-based R&D activities over a 10-year period. This will include running a significant number of clinical trials in the UK and it has also pledged to fund grants for UK universities, including PhD places and research programmes.
mRNA technology has proven to be one of the fastest routes to develop highly effective vaccines during the pandemic and has been pivotal in protecting people. It has the potential to be a transformative breakthrough technology in a number of disease areas, including cancer, respiratory illnesses and heart disease. mRNA vaccines also have the potential to treat multiple pathogens in a single shot. 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.
Construction is expected to commence in early 2023, with the first mRNA vaccine expected to be produced in the UK in 2025.
Dr Jenny Harries, Chief Executive of UKHSA, said:
I'm delighted that staff in the UKHSA's Covid Vaccine Unit played such a major role in bringing this exciting partnership with Moderna to fruition. UKHSA will now be taking this forward as a vital part of our preparedness against future respiratory virus threats, including COVID-19.
Our scientists have been monitoring the evolution of the virus throughout the pandemic, and assuring continued protection for the population. This partnership will take the winning ways of working with industry and build the nation's resilience, giving us rapid access to vaccines. We look forward to working closely with Moderna and playing a key role in supporting the government's ambitious life sciences strategy."
Stéphane Bancel, Chief Executive Officer of Moderna, said:
Our new state-of-the-art facility will bring mRNA manufacturing to UK shores, providing the UK public with access to pandemic response capabilities through Moderna COVID-19 vaccines and future respiratory virus vaccine candidates.
We look forward to being part of the UK's world-renowned science and innovation community, contributing to the UK health ecosystem through significant investments in R&D activities and expanding our clinical trial footprint across the country."
The partnership will be taken forward by the Covid Vaccine Unit - part of UKHSA - which continues to work to strengthen the UK's response to COVID-19 and long-term responsiveness to possible future health emergency events.