Lakes BioScience’s proposals will create 250 high-value, high-tech jobs at a state-of-the-art factory producing monoclonal antibodies.
At a taskforce meeting in Ulverston chaired by Barrow and Furness MP Simon Fell, GSK highlighted its support for Lakes BioScience’s proposed development which is just yards from GSK’s site.
Lakes BioScience has received planning permission from South Lakeland District Council to start work at the site and has received widespread support for its plans.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson has also indicated he is supportive of the bioscience industry in the UK. In answer to a question from Mr Fell during Prime Minister’s Questions last month, Mr Johnson told The House of Commons he sees bioscience as “one of the great growth areas for this country” and said Barrow and Furness should “take part in the boom”.
Lakes BioScience, which has secured £350m funding for its proposals, is now looking to secure a key contract which will kickstart its plans for the site.
In the latest development GSK has now pledged to help Lakes BioScience in its efforts to secure that contract which will unlock the potential for Ulverston to become a centre of biopharma manufacturing excellence with a purpose-built factory developing modern medicines.
GSK announced in February its plan to sell its Cephalosporin antibiotics business (the site at Ulverston and part of its facility in Barnard Castle) to Sandoz and close these operations once manufacturing has transferred in approximately 2025.
Lakes BioScience’s development is seen as an opportunity to secure economic growth as well as giving the UK more resilience in its supply of modern medicines and achieving objectives of the levelling up agenda of providing high value jobs in the north of England.
Mr Fell, who chairs the task force, reported from Thursday’s meeting that GSK had confirmed this further support for Lakes BioScience, whose plans are aligned to local and national economic objectives.
Mr Fell said: “GSK will provide business development guidance and technical support for the organisation (Lakes BioScience) and share their expertise and networks with the company in order to bolster their efforts to secure a keystone contract. This will create opportunities for job creation in Ulverston and retain vital skills in the community.
“The support for Lakes BioScience paves the way for maintaining, and growing, life science jobs in Ulverston.
“Lakes BioScience offers a real opportunity not just to secure life science jobs and skills in our community, but to grow them too. Securing this support from GSK and from the Government is a crucial step towards securing a lasting and meaningful legacy for Ulverston.”
GSK has also said it will continue to support employees and the local community, including delivering previous commitments on its apprenticeship programme and provision of funds (£500,000) to support local businesses with local job creation. All funds have now been granted and the initiatives have helped to create and secure 238 jobs.
Following Thursday’s taskforce meeting GSK has opened formal consultation with employees to provide transparency about the likely outcomes and will be arranging briefings with staff in the coming weeks.
GSK has reconfirmed its previous commitment to donate land to South Lakeland District Council, including the creation of a masterplan with project management support to help understand the best options available for the land. Its donation of £2m for the Ulverston sports centre has also been confirmed.
Mr Fell said: “I am grateful for the way that GSK has continued to engage constructively with the taskforce and Ministers in our efforts to secure a lasting legacy for Ulverston following February’s announcement.
“These commitments from GSK are most welcome. The open engagement with existing staff to secure their terms and conditions shows a clear commitment to the welfare of their employees. And the public commitment to continuing with the land donation, financial support for the sports centre, and masterplanning for the site provides certainty.
“These are concrete and welcome steps. The taskforce will now focus on two activities – agreeing a vision for the future of the site and surrounding area, and agreeing its priorities for community support.”
Pat McIver, director of Lakes BioScience, said: “We very much welcome GSK’s commitment to support Lakes BioScience’s plans. GSK’s help with business development guidance and technical support and their willingness to share their expertise and networks with Lakes BioScience will boost our efforts to secure a keystone contract which will unlock the huge potential of our development.
“This represents a fantastic opportunity to stop what would be a decline in UK medicine manufacturing capability and demonstrate what levelling up can deliver for the north of England, for Cumbria and for Ulverston.”
Phil Wilson, GSK Site Director said: “We welcome the ongoing constructive dialogue with the community and the opportunity, through the taskforce, to share progress on support for our teams. While we are still early in the process, with no immediate changes for our teams, we are committed to transparent and open communication throughout.”