Construction work has begun ahead of schedule to build the highly specialist facility that will house the Vaccines Manufacturing and Innovation Centre (VMIC). VMIC, a not for profit organisation, will provide the country’s first bespoke strategic vaccine development and manufacturing capability.

The accelerated programme will aim to see the 7,000 m2 (footprint) state-of-the-art facility opening its doors in 2021, ahead of the original scheduled date in 2022. Ground works began on the site at Harwell in early April and have focused on site clearance, preparing the site for construction and the early order of the steelwork. The basebuild is expected to be ready for early access for fit-out, in late July/early August.

“Whilst no-one could have predicted the Covid-19 outbreak we are doing all we can to fast track the build so VMIC is set-up to offer long-term support to the UK’s future vaccines needs whilst simultaneously contributing right now to the vital work that will help us emerge from this pandemic.” said Dr Matthew Duchars, Chief Executive of the Vaccines Manufacturing and Innovation Centre. “As well as working with the Harwell team and contractors to deliver the build rapidly ahead of schedule, VMIC scientists and engineers are working round the clock as part of the BIA CoViD19 Taskforce, and alongside Oxford University advising on manufacturing options of the vaccine candidate ChAdOx1 nCoV-19, which has recently opened for trial.”

Talking about the complexity of the project Cliff Dare, Chief Operating Officer of Harwell Campus Management team and Development Manager for the VMIC build said: “This is not a straightforward build and fit out; it is a complex advanced centre of technology and that throws up its own particular challenges. One way we are addressing this is by looking at novel strategies for developing fit out / technologies, including off-site manufacture that will sit within the building to be developed alongside groundworks.”

The fast tracking of the programme has been made possible by a collaborative effort between The Vaccines Manufacturing and Innovation Centre, Harwell Campus, Vale of the White Horse District Council, UK Research and Innovation, and Glencar Construction, the main contractor, to accelerate the construction of this complex build in order to bring the facility on line early so that it can provide an emergency response capability for the UK. Eddie McGillycuddy, Managing Director of Glencar Construction said: “Glencar is pleased to collaborate with VMIC, Harwell, The Vale of White Horse District Council and other stakeholders to deliver this critical project. We have made an accelerated start and reduced our construction programme with the support of our partners, making this project an excellent example of all that is good about our industry.”

Acknowledging the effort of all involved Angus Horner, Partner and Director Harwell Campus said, “The whole Project Team are going above and beyond every day at Harwell, particularly the construction personnel. We thank everyone involved for their strenuous ongoing efforts and off-site support for this supercharged project.”

VMIC will occupy a prominent location on the 700-acre Harwell Campus home to 6,000 people across ~225 organisations [with 30 universities represented onsite].  As a pillar organisation with the Harwell HealthTec Cluster VMIC will be co-located with the UK’s open access National Laboratories, including the Diamond Light Source and The Rosalind Franklin Institute as well as innovative start-ups/ SMEs through to multinationals working in the global and UK Life Sciences sector.

Talking about the broader importance of VMIC to the Harwell Life Sciences community, Dr Adrian Hill, Lead for the Harwell HealthTec Cluster said, “The accelerated development is not only timely for the UK in respect to Covid19, but it aligns well with our plans to fast-track the development of the campus as a leading hub for the research and manufacture of advanced medicines and therapies. Recently designated as a Life Sciences Opportunity Zone by the Office for Life Sciences, we will be working alongside government to attract more inward investment and create an enhanced community around VMIC, associated vector-based and analytical technologies, and the multi-disciplinary innovative ecosystem that exists here.”

Established by the University of Oxford, Imperial College and London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine with support from industrial partners, Merck Sharp and Dohme, Johnson and Johnson, and GE Healthcare, VMIC’s main funding comes through a £65 million grant from UK Research and Innovation, as part of the UK Government’s Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund.