Tees Valley mayor Ben Houchen welcomed Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng to a cutting-edge innovation centre which has just secured government funding to help in the fight against coronavirus.
The Secretary for State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy toured the Centre for Process Innovation’s Darlington site following the announcement of a £5m investment in the recent spring budget.
The technology and innovation centre has been working with the UK Vaccine Taskforce since the outbreak of coronavirus and this new funding will create a rapid response facility that will support the development of a “library” of mRNA vaccines to protect against new variants of Covid-19, as and when they emerge.
CPI will develop and bank vaccines, ready for future manufacture and scale-up when needed, with the potential to deliver enough doses for clinical trials in one week.
The news came just weeks after a separate £4m investment by the Tees Valley mayor and Combined Authority was made to help CPI create a Centre for Excellence in biomanufacturing at its site at the Wilton Centre in Redcar.
The new capability will allow CPI to support businesses in developing new and improved food products, including those with increased health benefits.
Business secretary Kwasi Kwarteng said: “The Centre for Process Innovation in Darlington is playing a critical role in our national effort against Covid-19, and it was fantastic to see cutting-edge vaccine development happening right here in the North East.
“We’re backing CPI’s life-saving work with an additional £5m, which will further support our scientists and researchers to rapidly respond to new virus variants if they emerge.”
Mayor Houchen said: “CPI is a fantastic example of a local organisation at the cutting-edge of biosciences and I was delighted the secretary of state could see the great strides the centre is making for himself.
“Along with the amazing work done by CPI, scientists across Teesside, Darlington and Hartlepool are playing a crucial role in the global fight against the coronavirus.
“In Billingham FUJIFILM Diosynth Biotechnologies will produce all 60 million doses of the Novavax vaccine, should it be approved by regulators hopefully in a few weeks, and now this funding is paving the way for us to play an even more critical role in protecting people’s health in rolling out new vaccines quickly.
“This is on top of the vital support that CPI gives other businesses, helping them to grow, bring new products to the market, create jobs and boost our economy.
“The biosciences and healthcare sectors are a key party of my plan for jobs and these investments will continue to keep CPI – and the region – at the forefront of its field.”
CPI CEO Frank Millar added: “The world-leading science we’re developing here in Darlington will be an essential part of the ongoing fight against coronavirus.
“As we prepare for a future living with the threat of Covid-19, the library of vaccine candidates we are building will help future-proof against further outbreaks caused by new strains of the disease.
“It will mean that as soon as a new strain of Covid-19 is identified, the relevant vaccine can be selected and rapidly manufactured for use in clinical trials, in a very similar way that we see flu vaccines developed each year.”