Merit to build UK’s first CAR-T cell manufacturing facility in Stevenage for Autolus Therapeutics

Merit, the offsite construction specialist for technically complex, zero-carbon emissions buildings, has been appointed as the main contractor for the construction of the UK’s first CAR-T cell manufacturing facility.

Autolus Therapeutics, a clinical-stage biopharmaceutical company developing next-generation programmed T cell therapies will expand its current capabilities in a new 7,500m2 facility in Stevenage.

The new facility will enable development of CAR T-cell therapies for cancer treatment, enabling the re-programming of patients’ immune systems so they can more easily recognise cancer cells. Once finished, the facility is expected to process 2,000 treatments annually.

Merit has been working with Autolus, and the developer, Reef Group, to design the new facility for the last 5 months. Reef Group’s funding partner, UBS Asset Management, provided £66m in forward funding to enable the innovative and fast track approach to delivering this pioneering facility by April 2023, and the site is pre-let to Autolus on a 20-year lease.

During the pre-construction phase, Merit developed the layout to maximize offsite manufacturing and to suit its unique building platform.

The design will utilise the Merit FLEXI POD® and Pre-Assembled Modules ‘PAM’ standard platform approach with 300 PAMs manufactured at Merit’s 270,000ft2 factory in Northumberland and shipped to Stevenage for installation by Merit’s specialist teams.

Merit’s unique offsite construction approach will enable three-quarters of the construction work to take place offsite in Northumberland, reducing carbon emissions as well as significantly speeding up the process by shortening the construction programme by 24 months compared to traditional building methods.

The building itself will feature several carbon-reducing solutions, including heat source pumps and heat recovery systems.

Once built, the facility will become part of the cell and gene therapy cluster in Stevenage, which is the third largest in the world and is known as the Stevenage Bioscience Catalyst.

The contract is the latest in a raft of recent appointments for Merit, which has been awarded a number of large-scale projects in the healthcare and life sciences sector. This includes the expansion of the rapid response facility in Darlington for CPI, as well as a lateral flow manufacturing site for Abingdon Health in York.