Moderna chooses Oxford for UK research and manufacturing mRNA hub

By Rachel Arthur

- Last updated on GMT

Artist's impression of the new Moderna site.
Artist's impression of the new Moderna site.

Related tags Moderna Oxford COVID-19 mRNA

Moderna’s UK Innovation and Technology Centre (MITC) will be located at the Harwell Campus in Oxford, and is expected to open in 2025.

The new MITC will be made up of two buildings totaling 145,000 sq. ft. The facility will encompass a research, development and manufacturing facility; alongside a clinical biomarker laboratory (a prefabricated modular laboratory constructed in Northumberland before being transferred to Oxford).

The strategic partnership between Moderna and the UK Government for the center was announced last year - although the location had not been chosen at the time - promising a large manufacturing center producing COVID-19 jabs and as well as developing vaccines for a range of respiratory diseases. These could include Moderna’s RSV and influenza candidates.

The center will be able to scale up production rapidly in the event of a health emergency, significantly boosting the UK’s ability to respond to future pandemics, say the partners.

'National health tech hub' for mRNA

Launched in 2016, Harwell’s Health Tech cluster has grown to include more than 70 life science organizations (while the wider science campus boasts 200 organizations and some 6,000 employees working from the site).

In 2020, it was designated one of seven Life Sciences Opportunity Zones (LSOZ) in the UK. 

The site – ‘where world-leading commercial companies and research institutes sit side by side’ – already houses companies such as Catalent, Vaccitech, NeoVac and Nanovation Therapeutics. Meanwhile, it also is home to Europe’s largest collection of open access, publicly funded scientific facilities, such as The Rosalind Franklin Institute and the Nucleic Acid Therapy Accelerator.

Dr Barbara Ghinelli, Director of Innovation Clusters and Harwell Campus at UKRI-STFC, said: “The Harwell Health Tech cluster’s multidisciplinary ecosystem allows researchers and industry professionals to easily share expertise and skills, creating impactful innovation across the entire life sciences sector. From accelerating the discovery and development of new vaccines and advanced medicines, to leading the way with next generation imaging technologies and diagnostics, the cluster is enabling ground-breaking progress against global health challenges.” 

Moderna’s site will be the next development to start at Harwell and is in addition to the three million sq. ft of development already planned at the campus.

The subsequent phase of growth is aimed at reducing the chronic shortage of lab space available across Oxfordshire and will see a combination of lab, office, and R&D buildings being built including the new Zeta building: a 21,000sq ft ‘mid-tech’ development.  

Moderna’s investment will create hundreds of jobs across Oxfordshire and the UK and will position Harwell Campus as a national health tech hub for the pioneering research and development of mRNA and other nucleic acid therapeutics.

Darius Hughes, UK General Manager at Moderna, said: “We are delighted to reach this important milestone with Harwell and our lab build partners, Merit. We look forward to joining the Harwell Campus health tech cluster and contributing to the UK’s science and innovation community through investments in R&D. When constructed, our facility at Harwell will harness mRNA science to develop and deliver tailored, innovative vaccines to the UK public that address particular threats from respiratory viruses facing our population.” 

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