Merit reaches key project milestone for Moderna’s clinical laboratories

Northumberland-headquartered Merit, the UK’s leading industrialised construction and digital manufacturing specialist, has reached a significant project milestone for Moderna’s clinical laboratories project, as part of its new Moderna Innovation and Technology Centre (MITC), Harwell, Oxfordshire. Transportation of the offsite components, and subsequent installation on site, began 13th October, 2023.

The offsite components, including 52 PODs have been transported from Merit’s 314,000ft2 Cramlington-based factory to the Harwell Campus, Oxfordshire. Upon arrival, the PODs were craned and lifted into position for installation on site.

This development in the project follows Merit’s announcement in March 2023, when the firm was appointed by biotechnology company Moderna as the main offsite construction partner for the clinical laboratories.

This modern facility will be delivered using Merit’s vertically integrated and innovative product-based approach, UltraPOD®+, promising an eleven-month timescale for the delivery of approximately 2,100m2, BSL-2 and BSL-3 new containment laboratories with a 92% Pre-Manufactured Value.

The laboratories will form part of the Moderna Innovation and Technology Centre, which will encompass research, development and a manufacturing facility, which aims to provide the UK public with access to mRNA vaccines for a wide range of respiratory diseases, pending independent regulatory assessment and licensure.

The importance of this new facility cannot be understated, playing a key role in the UK’s resilience to meet the threat of future pandemics, providing the country with access to cutting-edge messenger ribonucleic acid (mRNA) vaccine research used to fight COVID-19. The MITC will create hundreds of jobs during construction and operation in Oxfordshire and around the UK.

The Clinical Laboratories are expected to become operational in 2024 with the manufacturing facility  set to open in 2025.

Tony Wells, CEO at Merit, commented: “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 cutting-edge 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.”

A well-respected and trusted expert in its field, Merit delivers technically complex facilies in a third of the time compared to traditional methods of construction. This project also showcases Merit’s ability to delier on the government’s stringent sustainability considerations by harnessing their zero carbon emissions design philosophy. Further, all of Merit’s facilities are certified BREEAM Excellent as a minimum.