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The highly-qualified staff at Benchmark's vaccine manufacturing centre will be transferred to CGT Catapult. Photo: Benchmark.
The highly-qualified staff at Benchmark's vaccine manufacturing centre will be transferred to CGT Catapult. Photo: Benchmark.

Aquaculture health, genetics and nutrition company Benchmark Holdings has agreed to sell its vaccine manufacturing facility in Braintree, Essex for £16 million as part of a £100m government plan to accelerate the mass production of a successful Covid-19 vaccine.

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The sale will take the amount Benchmark has raised from selling its non-core assets to around £42m.

The vaccine facility is being sold to Cell and Gene Therapy Catapult (CGT Catapult), a government-funded centre of excellence focused on building a world-leading cell and gene therapy sector in the UK. 

It will upgrade the facility to create a fully-licensed manufacturing centre that will increase the UK’s ability to respond to diseases like coronavirus and to prepare for potential future pandemics.

‘A perfect solution’

Benchmark began a review of its vaccine strategy earlier this year, to see how best to get a return on its investment in the area.

“The Government’s strategy to build infrastructure in the UK to scale the manufacture of vaccines and therapeutics in support of the response to Covid-19 created a perfect solution to ensure that our vaccine manufacturing facility is put to best use and to secure employment for its workforce,” it said in a statement today.

The facility’s 75 staff will transfer to CGT Catapult on completion of the sale.

Benchmark said the proceeds from the sale do not represent a profit for the company but are based on the Braintree facility’s asset value and have been agreed to support the UK Government’s vaccine strategy.

Trond Williksen: Sale is a significant step forward in Benchmark's strategy.
Trond Williksen: Sale is a significant step forward in Benchmark's strategy.

Focused on key areas

Chief executive Trond Williksen said: “I am very pleased to announce this transaction which is another significant step forward in our strategy of becoming a streamlined, profitable business focused on our key areas of competency.

“Benchmark is also delighted that the timing and conclusion of our vaccine strategy review coincides with the need to scale capabilities to manufacture human vaccines in response to Covid-19 and that the talented team at Benchmark will become part of this critical effort.”

Vital resource

Matthew Durdy, chief executive of CGT Catapult, said: “This commitment from the Government through the BEIS Vaccines Taskforce will enable continued growth and productivity in the cell and gene therapy sector, as well as providing vital resource for vaccine manufacturing and economic recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic.

“We are delighted to welcome the team from Benchmark to the Catapult family and be able to deploy the specialist capabilities of the Cell and Gene Therapy Catapult in such an important initiative. 

“Accelerating the availability of Covid-19 vaccines, keeping skills and employment, and facilitating growth of the advanced medicines industry will make a valuable contribution to the recovery of the economy.”

Read more about the government’s plans to enhance vaccine production here.

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