Merck blueprints $1.3B research hub in a post-Brexit London, with 950 staffers

While the EMA is exiting London over the next 18 months, US pharma giant Merck plans to help fill the post-Brexit gap with a new drug research hub and headquarters with 950 staffers.

Merck has begun to seek a site for its new research center in London, which will be established as Merck concentrates its US forces in Cambridge/Boston and the Bay Area.

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 operation. And City A.M. reports that Merck will relocate staff currently at a facility in Hoddesdon, Hertfordshire. The move is being timed to coordinate with the release of the government’s Industrial Strategy White Paper.

According to a statement from Merck, the pharma giant plans to be up and running with the new R&D hub by 2020, but they are already gearing up and recruiting scientists to start work at a temporary facility.

The company is currently evaluating several potential locations in the London region with a target date of 2020 for operational readiness. In the meantime, MSD plans to establish a small temporary research facility in the area and is actively recruiting for suitably qualified scientific talent.

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.

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.

Takeda has been closing down some of its work in the country, which follows exits by Novartis, Pfizer and Roche.

Fo the UK government, which has been under siege as it executes a messy divorce from the EU, Merck’s move marks a badly needed public relations coup.

Business Secretary Greg Clark said:

MSD’s commitment today, and the wider Sector Deal investment we have secured, proves the process outlined in the Industrial Strategy can give companies the confidence and direction they need to invest in the UK. It will ensure Britain continues to be at the forefront of innovation and represents a huge vote of confidence in our Industrial Strategy.

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Recursion Pharmaceuticals Salt Lake City, UT
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Atlas Venture Cambridge, MA

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