Novavax COVID jab manufacturer reveals £400m Teesside plant expansion

The company slated to manufacture tens of millions of Novavax coronavirus vaccines at its plant on Teesside has announced a £400m expansion plan for the site.

Fujifilm Diosynth Biotechnologies said its proposed investment would more than double the Billingham operation’s existing development and manufacturing footprint, “creating the largest multi-modal biopharmaceutical manufacturing site in the UK”.

The company anticipated that up to 350 “highly-skilled jobs” would be created by late 2023.

Fujifilm revealed the plan as it awaits a decision on whether the Novavax vaccine has been approved for use in the UK.

Early evidence from trials suggested it was 100% effective in protecting against “moderate and severe disease” while the American biotechnology company said it had 90.4% efficacy overall – in line with rival jabs.

The protein-based vaccine has also been found to have encouraging signs in relation to side-effects.

The UK has ordered 60 million doses of the Novavax vaccine – pending its final approval which could come within weeks.

Those doses would be manufactured at Fujifilm’s Billingham site.

The company indicated that it was making its investment in spite of that work – with the focus on cell culture, along with viral and gene therapy, facilities.

Fujifilm had already announced plans to expand its viral vector and gene therapy facilities in nearby Darlington.

Its chief executive, Martin Meeson, said of the latest investment decision: “With a strong growing demand for microbial, cell culture and viral gene therapy services, we are adding the capacity and latest technologies within one campus to offer a range of modalities to build an offering that will deliver novel promising treatments to patients for years to come.”

The announcement was broadly welcomed – with PM Boris Johnson adding: “At £400m, this is a significant investment in British biopharmaceutical manufacturing and will power our response to some of today’s most urgent global health challenges and deliver life-changing medicines and vaccines to patients in need.”

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