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MSD to create strong UK discovery centre in London

The pharma group aims to start operations by 2020

Merck & Co MSD

MSD has said it plans to set up a new headquarters in London that will house a new discovery centre employing up to 150 researchers.

The pharma company - known as Merck & Co in the US and Canada - also intends to move around 800 workers from its current headquarters in Hoddesdon, Hertfordshire, and says it is scouting out locations for the new site with the aim of starting operations in 2020.

MSD said the new centre will become the location for MSD’s UK headquarters, making the central London site “a unique location within the UK pharmaceutical sector”. Last year, MSD agreed to sell part of its Hoddesdon site - specifically a process development and research facility - to contract research organisation Pharmaron.

The decision has been trumpeted by the UK government as a reassurance that multinational pharma companies may still choose to invest in the UK as a centre for R&D, despite the threat of disruption from the UK’s decision to leave the EU in 2019, and particularly curbs on the free movement of R&D personnel.

It also comes on the same day that the UK government is due to publish a white paper on industrial strategy in a post-Brexit economy, with the aim of tackling a range of issues such as the country’s stagnant productivity, the lop-sidedness of the country’s economy in favour of London and the southeast (not addressed in MSD’s case) and improve workforce skills.

The government said this morning that investments by a number of pharma companies into the UK will form a key part of the ‘sector deal’, described as “a central industrial strategy measure, set to be signed in the coming weeks by the life sciences sector and government”.

MSD’s UK and Ireland managing director Louise Houson said that a big part of the decision stemmed from the promise of locating the facility in the so-called ‘golden triangle’ between London, Oxford and Cambridge, and help it attract “the brightest and best research scientists”.

“This investment presents a major opportunity for us to work in collaboration with the UK government to build on the forward thinking and ambitious … white paper published by the government today,” she added.

MSD said in a statement that the decision to locate the new unit in London is in line with other investments in life sciences hubs in the US, namely the San Francisco Bay area and Cambridge, Massachusetts. Locating a research facility in London “will expand MSD’s opportunity to engage with leading researchers in the UK and Europe”, it added.

“The big pharma’s head of R&D, Roger Perlmutter, president, said the London site “will enable us to build on our proud legacy of invention and be an important contributor to the vibrant and rapidly growing London life sciences community while providing access for more collaborations within the European life science ecosystem”.

Article by
Phil Taylor

27th November 2017

From: Sales

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