GSK plans £400m life sciences campus in Stevenage

Pharmaceuticals firm thinks creating cluster of companies at its site could result in up to 5,000 jobs

Last modified on Fri 16 Jul 2021 08.25 EDT

GlaxoSmithKline is seeking to create a £400m campus in Stevenage for new life sciences companies that it believes could result in up to 5,000 jobs over the next decade.

The pharmaceuticals company has kicked off a process to find a private sector developer to transform a third of its existing 37-hectare (92 acres) research and development site in Stevenage into one of Europe’s largest clusters for new life sciences businesses.

The proposal will involve GSK selling 13.3 hectares of land, which it believes will unlock £400m of investment from a development partner, with the campus potentially the home of up to 5,000 highly skilled workers over the next five to 10 years.

“The past 18 months has shown the UK life sciences sector at its best,” said Tony Wood, the senior vice-president of medicinal science and technology at GSK. “Our goal is for Stevenage to emerge as a top destination for medical and scientific research by the end of the decade. We are excited to find a development partner to realise our vision to foster the next generation of world-class scientists and biotechnology firms in Britain.”

GSK expects to select a development partner later this year, with master planning for the new campus in 2022.

The drug company is also working with local and central government on the campus, which will be just over half the size of AstraZeneca’s site in Cambridge, Britain’s largest cluster, which is undergoing a £1bn investment.

GSK’s Hertfordshire site is already home to one of its two main global research and development facilities as well as the Cell and Gene Therapy Catapult, and Stevenage Bioscience Catalyst, which have attracted a number of startups and raised about £1.6bn in funding.

“Stevenage is already a leading location for life science companies to develop and commercialise cutting edge therapeutics,” said Sally Ann Forsyth, the chief executive of Stevenage Bioscience Catalyst. “SBC is home to over 40 companies, and today’s proposal presents exciting opportunities to build on this.”

GSK’s development plan follows the move by the activist hedge fund Elliott Management to build a stake and subsequently write a 17-page letter to Sir Jonathan Symonds, the pharmaceutical company’s chairman, making recommendations to restore its credibility after “years of disappointing performance”.

The Covid-19 pandemic has sparked huge investor interest in life sciences, with investment in the sector hitting almost £20bn in 2020, and a record £10.6bn in the first three months of this year.

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