MSD selects London site for US$1.32bn research complex

MSD, known as Merck & Co within the US and Canada, has selected to build its future US$1.32bn state-of-the-art research centre and UK headquarters at the heart of London’s academic and life science cluster in Camden.

The Discovery Research Centre will be a hub of research and business, a specialised office and life science facility of just over 20,000 m2 that will accommodate around 800 employees (including approximately 120 new positions). The research laboratory will unite a select, multidisciplinary team of scientific minds aiming to drive medical advances against some of the most challenging diseases facing ageing populations.

According to MSD, its research centre and interim facilities represent the healthcare company’s investment in – and commitment to – highly principled and rigorous early bioscience research conducted in the most forward-looking ways.

Currently, MSD discovery scientists in the UK are operating out of interim facilities at London’s Bioscience Innovation Centre and at the Francis Crick Institute, where they will remain until the centre is complete. Employees working at MSD’s UK business headquarters, currently in Hertfordshire, will move to interim offices in Moorgate at the beginning of next year, and stay until the centre is complete.

David Peacock, MSD’s Managing Director for UK and Ireland, said: “I am very excited by the prospect of bringing all our colleagues together under one roof where we can research, work and collaborate closely together in our new purpose-built London facility.”

The complex will be sited within the ‘Knowledge Quarter’ in Camden, and adjacent to the Euston, King’s Cross, and St Pancras railway stations. The Knowledge Quarter is a world-class knowledge cluster of partnered academic, cultural, research, scientific, and media organisations. Partners include biomedical research institute The Francis Crick Institute; science and healthcare research charity Wellcome; and the Camden and Islington NHS Foundation Trust, which provides healthcare services.

The location of the proposed MSD complex is currently occupied by low-rise brick buildings that are due to be demolished, reports the Financial Times. The new development is to deliver high-quality and sustainable design, using sustainable materials and plans to reduce carbon emissions generated through construction and operation.

Subject to permission for its planning application being granted in early 2021, MSD intends to begin construction in 2021 and complete in 2025.

MSD says that it is proud to be investing in the UK at a time when the nation’s Government and life science community are actively seeking to drive research and development intensity and economic growth while cementing the UK’s status as a globally-leading scientific power. The company adds that the development recognises its confidence and optimism in the UK’s future role at the forefront of developing science.

Fiona Marshall, VP Head of Neuroscience and Head of UK Discovery Research for MSD, said: “We are excited about being close to world-leading universities and hospitals in London – many with whom we already collaborate.

“And, we are determined to build on our fundamental research strengths to deliver innovation to patients and doctors worldwide and invest in opportunities to address significant medical needs through our own internal research and discovery efforts and the best external science.”

Peacock commented: “This R&D investment shows that the UK is a key player in discovering and developing innovative therapies that save and improve lives both here and around the world. Combined with our belief that collaboration is vital to fighting some of the world’s most challenging diseases, I’m looking forward to partnering with the NHS to ensure that the innovations in medicines and treatments that will be developed in London can support transformation of care delivered by the NHS and improve health outcomes in the UK.”

Nadhim Zahawi, UK Minister for Business and Industry, said: “Through our ambitious R&D roadmap we are making the UK the best place in the world for scientists and researchers to live and work. I’m delighted that MSD is investing in a Discovery Research Centre, which will help to create more highly-skilled local jobs while also supporting our ambitions to cement the UK as a science superpower.”

The new facility will be the latest in a series of multidisciplinary R&D discovery hubs which MSD has established around the world, focussed on solving difficult medical problems. These facilities are strategically located nearby clusters of biomedical research organisations to enable MSD to develop collaborations with scientists at world-leading academic centres and hospitals as well as emerging biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies.

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