US biotech firm Moderna will build a new research and manufacturing centre in Britain to develop vaccines against new Covid-19 variants, other respiratory illnesses and help improve readiness for any future pandemics.
The facility is expected to start producing shots in 2025 and Britain has made a commitment to buy Moderna’s vaccines for the next decade under the agreement.
Moderna‘s Covid-19 vaccines, which use messenger RNA (mRNA) technology, were among those deployed in Britain to tackle the crisis and enable prime minister Boris Johnson to reopen the economy from stringent lockdowns.
Moderna chief executive Stephane Bancel said the priority was to develop a shot combining refreshed boosters against Covid, flu and Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV).
“By building a plant in the UK, we are also providing the UK Government – which has a long term partnership with us, with this agreement – with the ability to be pandemic ready,” Bancel said on Wednesday.
“That capacity that we’re building in the UK, that they are committed to buying the product for the next ten years, this can be reallocated very quickly to anything they want.”
Further details, such as the location of the final plant in Britain, were being finalised, and financial terms were not disclosed.
“We have a shortlist of a couple of sites,” Bancel said, adding that he hoped construction would start this year.
“We should be shortly able to announce the location.”