By Mark Terry


Merck & Co., Inc., with U.S. headquarters in Kenilworth, NJ, and which is known as MSD outside the U.S. and Canada, plans to move its European clinical operations to central London, UK. Its current UK headquarters are in Hoddesdon, Hertfordshire. The new location will bring in 150 new scientists and 800 additional staff.

The move is in part related to Brexit, the UK’s exit from the European Union (EU). Europe’s version of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), known as the European Medicines Agency (EMA), is leaving London because of Brexit in the next 18 months.

John Carroll, writing for Endpoints News, notes, “Kenilworth, NJ-based Merck is willing to invest about $1.3 billion in the new center, with plans to recruit 150 top scientists for the new hub operations. And City A.M. reports that Merck will relocate staff at a facility in Hoddesdon, Hertfordshire. The move is being timed to coordinate with the release of the government’s Industrial Strategy White Paper.”

The move is part of a deal the UK government made with the life sciences sector. The Industrial Strategy White Paper will be released today, along with the government’s announcement of four sector deals. The other sectors include construction, artificial intelligence and automotive industries.

The UK’s Business Secretary, Greg Clark, said in a statement, “We are an open, flexible economy, built on trade and engagement with the world. We have a competitive business environment with a deserved reputation for being a dependable and confident place to do business, thanks to our high standards, respected institutions and a reliable rule of law.”

The UK government is investing 725 million pounds ($970.27 million, U.S.) in an effort to “transform” Britain’s industries over the next three years, The Times reported. That is in addition to the 1 billion pounds that had already been announced. The funds include 210 million pounds focused toward diagnosing disease earlier, and 170 million pounds aimed at building energy-efficient affordable housing.

Louise Houson, managing director of Merck in the UK and Ireland, told City A.M., “We believe London to be a unique bioscience center of excellence and a key component of the established golden triangle for academic science of London-Oxford-Cambridge.”

The company expects to have the facility in London operational by 2020. Meanwhile, it expects to open a smaller, temporary research facility in the area and begin recruiting scientific personnel.

Carroll reports, “The Financial Times is also reporting that Qiagen is hatching plans to invest hundreds of millions more into a new genomics center in Manchester. And the FT adds that government officials are hinting at more such announcements in the near future as they seek to reassure the public in a strong post-Brexit life sciences sector.”

He goes on to say, “The UK’s big anchors in drug R&D remain in the hands of Emma Walmsley at GlaxoSmithKline and AstraZeneca’s Pascal Soriot, who’s planning to wrap a massive new HQ and research center in Cambridge. The Golden Triangle of London, Oxford and Cambridge remains one of the world’s top biotech hubs.”

On the other hand, Takeda is shuttering some of its operations in the UK, and Novartis, Pfizer and Roche have already exited.


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