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COVID-19 vaccine maker FUJIFILM Diosynth Biotechnologies unveils 350-job, £400 million Billingham expansion

A life sciences firm behind a new COVID-19 vaccine has revealed £400 million growth plans it says will create up to 350 North East jobs.

FUJIFILM Diosynth Biotechnologies is expanding its Billingham base in the “largest investment in British biopharmaceutical manufacturing for decades”.

Bosses say the commitment will more than double development and manufacturing space and create the UK’s largest multi-modal biopharmaceutical production site.

Its new buildings are expected to begin operations in late 2023.

According to the company’s blueprint, the expansion will further work around antibody treatments, bolster gene therapy “ten-fold” and extend mammalian cell culture projects.

It will also boost vaccine manufacturing – the firm is already working with Novavax to create up to 60 million COVID-19 doses.

Martin Meeson, chief executive, said: “We all know there has never been a more important time to invest in biopharmaceuticals.

“And £400 million signals our intent to respond to customers’ needs with flexibility and agility to help solve public health demands and deliver the medicines and vaccines of tomorrow.

“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.”

Paul Found, chief operating officer [pictured above], added: “It’s our vision for the Billingham site to be the beating heart of the rapidly expanding North East life sciences ecosystem, and this investment will create up to 350 highly-skilled jobs and additional benefits across the local and national supply chain.”

The company previously announced plans to expand viral vector and gene therapy work in Darlington, with process development laboratories and manufacturing capabilities to support the production of investigational use of gene therapies in early-stage clinical trials.

Officials say process development laboratories have now begun operations, with manufacturing services due to start in spring next year.