Cramlington based business reaches milestone for Moderna's clinical lab

Northumberland-headquartered Merit, the pioneering industrialised construction and digital manufacturing specialist, has reached a significant milestone in the development of Moderna’s clinical laboratories.

Transportation of the offsite components, including 52 PODs manufactured in Merit’s Cramlington-based 314,000ft2 factory, began on 13th October 2023. The PODs have since been craned and lifted into position on site at the Harwell Campus in Oxfordshire.

The offsite components have been in development since March 2023, when the company was selected by the biotechnology company Moderna as the primary offsite construction partner for their clinical laboratories.

The state-of-the-art facility is being delivered using Merit’s product-based approach, UltraPOD®+, promising an eleven-month delivery timeline for approximately 2,100m2 of BSL-2 and BSL-3 new containment laboratories.

The laboratories will form an integral part of the Moderna Innovation and Technology Centre (MITC), a multidisciplinary hub dedicated to vaccine research, development, and manufacturing. Its primary goal is to provide the UK public with access to mRNA vaccines targeting various respiratory diseases, subject to regulatory assessment and licensure.

The MITC is designed to play a central role in enhancing the UK’s resilience against future pandemics, including the development of new vaccines.

It is poised to create hundreds of jobs during both the construction and operational phases in Oxfordshire and throughout the UK. The contract has already enabled Merit to deliver significant investment in its own facilities, including creating 50 jobs and 21 new apprentice opportunities.

The clinical laboratories are expected to become operational in 2024, with the manufacturing facility set to open in 2025.

Tony Wells, CEO at Merit, said: “It’s incredibly exciting to see the offsite components of this facility leave our Cramlington factory for Harwell, Oxfordshire. Ultimately, our team has pioneered a high-quality, specialised offsite solution that will bring highly advanced technology and medicines to market to help protect public health across the UK.

“Merit’s UltraPOD®+ product is ideally suited to meet Moderna’s requirements, bringing enormous advantages in terms of quality and speed, both of which are critical factors for the sector.”

Darius Hughes, UK general manager at Moderna, commented: “We are delighted to mark this important milestone in our commitment to developing a mRNA research, development, and manufacturing facility in the UK. We would like to thank our partners at Merit for constructing the off-site components of these state-of-the-art laboratories, which will play a key role in our search for new vaccines and therapeutics.”

Stuart Grant, chief executive of Harwell Campus said: “The delivery of these prefabricated laboratories is another fantastic example of innovative UK engineering being deployed at Harwell Campus. We are excited to take such a significant step towards completing the Moderna Innovation and Technology Centre and enabling such crucial research.”

By Mark Adair – Correspondent, Bdaily

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