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Northumberland construction firm secures major contract with £75 million cell and gene therapy centre

A Northumberland construction company has won a major contract to deliver the third and final phase of expansion at a state-of-the-art £75 million cell and gene therapy centre.

Merit Holdings — which is based in Cramlington — was chosen to construct a number of new buildings at the Cell and Gene Therapy Catapult (CGT Catapult) manufacturing centre in Stevenage, as part of a £16 million expansion plan.

The Cramlington company — which won Company of the Year at the North East Business Awards back in 2018 — specialises in delivering controlled cleanroom environments, with an increasing focus on remote manufacturing.

As part of the deal, Merit will build seven new quality control laboratories for the pioneering centre, with almost all of the work taking place remotely at their Northumberland headquarters.

The construction company will use its advanced offsite manufacturing expertise to boost the capacity of the cell and gene therapy centre, which plays a crucial role in manufacturing advanced therapies for patients.

By engineering pre-assembled modules at their base, Merit hope to reduce the impact of works as well as overall build time, so that important manufacturing at the Stevenage site can continue without interruption.

The CGT Catapult centre is providing the infrastructure for companies to develop their manufacturing capabilities for large scale, commercial cell and gene therapy supply, and is backed by over £75 million of funding, including various government and EU grants.

Companies currently collaborating at the centre include Adaptimmune, Autolus, Cell Medica, Freeline Therapeutics and TCR2 Therapeutics.

This isn’t the first time that Merit has worked with the CGT Catapult centre, either — the firm also successfully delivered an expansion phase at the site in October of 2019, using the same pre-assembled module techniques.

Over the past year, Merit has switched its strategy to pre-assembled modules for nearly all of its projects — an approach which it claims allows them to cut build times, minimise disruption, and reduce costs.

To deliver the new laboratories, the company will take the off-site approach to the next level, with only 10% of the total labour being carried out on site in Stevenage.

Tony Wells, managing director at Merit, said: “We are delighted to have the opportunity to continue to work with the team at CGT Catapult and are proud to have an integral role in the development of such a pioneering off-site initiative.

“Our proprietary ‘Instant Building’ technology combines advanced offsite manufacturing with the technical expertise to deliver complex solutions in significantly shorter build schedules.

“We have a detailed knowledge of the project after successfully completing the expansion phase last year and look forward to working closely with CGT Catapult to once again deliver a high-quality facility.”

Keith Thompson, CEO at Cell and Gene Therapy Catapult, said: “It is a pleasure to work with Merit again to expand our laboratory space to provide additional analytical capabilities at the Cell and Gene Therapy Catapult manufacturing centre.

“Merit provided diligent support and ensured minimal disruption during the building of our expansion phase at the centre, and this is crucial to maintaining the facility operational for us and our collaborating companies manufacturing therapies, in an operational GMP compliant state.

“We look forward to working with Merit again on what is another significant project for CGT Catapult.”