AstraZeneca injects $827m in UK to up R&D and vaccine production

AstraZeneca (AZ) invests £650 million ($827 million) in the UK to bolster vaccine capacity and expand its headquarters.

Shreeyashi Ojha, Reporter

March 7, 2024

4 Min Read

A year after the Guardian reported on the UK losing investments to the ‘corporate-friendly Ireland,’ AZ has invested in the country to strengthen public health protection.

Apportioned into two, £450 million ($574 million) will be invested in its manufacturing facility in Speke, Liverpool. The remaining amount of £200 million ($255 million) is set to expand the firm’s presence near its global headquarters in Cambridge. 

The Liverpool facility, which was added through AZ’s acquisition of MedImmune in 2007, will scale up the firm’s manufacturing capabilities for vaccines. According to the company, the site that produces up to 20 million doses of AZ’s influenza vaccines FluMist/Fluenz Tetra, will be designed and built to be operational with net zero carbon emissions. The facility currently employs around 400 employees. 

In addition to upping its vaccine production capabilities, AZ has partnered with the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) to advance R&D operations at the plant. For this, technology from both AZ’s manufacturing site in Speke and the UKHSA’s Vaccine Development Evaluation Centre (VDEC) at their Porton Down site, Sailsbury will be used.

“The proposed investment at Speke is a collaboration with the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) to research, develop and manufacture new vaccines for use against viral pathogens,” a spokesperson for AZ told BioProcess Insider.

“The Speke site already supports the UK’s world leading childhood vaccination programme using pioneering nasal spray vaccine technology. We are looking to expand our capabilities, building a flexible biomanufacturing site, to respond to the threat of future pandemics and meet the growing demand for vaccines globally. Production of future vaccines is subject to progression of our late-stage pipeline, and we will provide updates in due course.”

Additionally, the Cambridge headquarters will hire around 1,000 employees, and said it would provide them with the opportunity to upskill. The spokesperson confirmed that the proposed investment in Cambridge “will house around 1,000 employees and is primarily to support beyond R&D functions, who do not have headcount in the DISC but are currently based in central Cambridge.”

“AstraZeneca’s planned investment would enhance the UK’s pandemic preparedness and demonstrates our ongoing confidence in UK life sciences,” said Pascal Soriot, CEO of AZ. “We will continue to support the UK in driving innovation and patient access, building on the strong foundations which have been put in place.”  

As reported by this publication last month, The Times and  Financial Times claimed AZ had asked for as much as £100 million ($127 million) from the UK Government to expand its Liverpool facility, citing unnamed officials. 

In the past, Soriot has criticized the government and the country’s corporate tax rate of 25%. However, following this announcement, the CEO said, “We are proud of our British roots and how far we have come over that time – we are now a truly global company that has transformed the lives of millions of patients throughout the world with a relentless focus on science and innovation.” 

UK Gov targets Life sciences sector 

Announced during the Spring Budget 2024, Chancellor Jeremy Hunt said, “Our £108 billion ($137 million) Life Sciences sector provides over 300,000 high skilled jobs across the UK and is crucial for the country’s health, wealth and resilience.” 

“We are sticking to our plan to make the UK one of the best places in world to invest in developing and manufacturing new, innovative medicines - both protecting public health and growing our economy. AstraZeneca’s investment plans are a vote of confidence in the attractiveness of UK as a Life Sciences superpower and strengthen our resilience for future health emergencies.” 

Recently, the UK government has been driving investment in the Life Sciences sector. In 2022, the government pledged £260 million ($331 million) to bolster healthcare research, £60 million ($76 million) of which will be used to expand manufacturing capabilities.

In April 2023, the National Health Service (NHS) opened a £10 ($12.5 million) cell and gene therapy (CGT) manufacturing plant in Bristol to increase UK capacity for plasmids and vectors. This was followed by Hunt revealing the ‘Life Sci for Growth’ package a month later, under which £650 million ($828 million) was allocated to fire up the UK’s life sciences sector and drive forward the government’s priority to grow the economy.

About the Author(s)

Shreeyashi Ojha

Reporter, BioProcess Insider

Journalist covering the manufacturing and processing sectors for biopharmaceuticals globally.  

Originally from India, I am a Londoner at heart. I have recently graduated from Goldsmiths, University of London.  

Feel free to reach out to me at: [email protected].

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