HUNDREDS of jobs, multi-million-pound investment and a key role in producing a Covid vaccine is enabling the North East to become a “thriving hub of biotech”.

That is the claim of Martin Meeson, chief executive of Fujifilm Diosynth Biotechnologies, who was speaking at the company’s Teesside site in Billingham during a visit from the Health Secretary.

The Teesside site will play a key role in production of the Novavax vaccine after it was finally approved for use last week after delays. Around 60 million vaccines are expected to be created at the site.

Despite earlier concerns over whether the vaccine would be produced on Teesside after great fanfare last year, Fujifilm confirmed it continues to work with Novavax to produce the new vaccine.

However, it is still unclear when the vaccine will be fully approved. Mr Meeson said: “We have ongoing commercial supply agreements going forward. We are continuously manufacturing for Novavax at the moment here at the site and in our network.

Read more: Novavax vaccine will be made at Tees Fujifilm despite concerns

“We will be making millions and millions of doses which we will give to Novavax for their ongoing production and supply, and we are proud to do that.”

The Health Secretary Sajid Javid did not rule out whether annual Covid jabs would form a part of the government’s “living with Covid” future plan but Mr Meeson said Fujifilm would be willing contribute to future supplies if needed.  


He said: “We want to make sure we have the ability, capacity and capability to support that ongoing manufacture if its needed.”

The Novavax deal came about, Mr Meeson said, due to Fujifilm’s expertise. “We are one of the leaders in this particular way of manufacturing, so we were a very natural fit for Novavax,” he added.

Read more: Hundreds of jobs as Billingham vaccines firm invests £400m

In December, it announced a £400 million investment and up to 350 new jobs to create the largest biopharmaceutical manufacturing site in the UK.

How important is this for Teesside? “When you look at the great work that we’re already doing here and the ability to be able to expand, the people of the North East should be really proud,” Mr Meeson said.

“This is going to be the thriving hub of biotech in the North East and the UK as well.”

The Northern Echo: Fujifilm Chief Executive Martin Meeson. Picture: Fujifilm Diosynth Biotechnologies Fujifilm Chief Executive Martin Meeson. Picture: Fujifilm Diosynth Biotechnologies

With up to 350 new jobs soon to be up for grabs, Mr Meeson appealed to anyone interested in working to apply.

“It’s a great part of the world to live and train,” he added. “A lot of the skills that people bring from the North East play very well into what we’re looking for.

“People should have a real sense of pride that this is going on here.”

Stockton North Labour MP Alex Cunningham, who represents Billingham, said: “We now have reassurances that Novavax will be produced in Teesside, and I was delighted to visit Fujifilm Diosynth in Billingham today, alongside the Health Secretary, as the company begins to manufacture part of the vaccine at this site.

"This will play a leading role in our continued efforts against Coronavirus as we move out of the pandemic.

“It was also great to see Fujifilm investing in and expanding its Billingham complex, and I was pleased to be shown round the new site. This investment can only be good for job creation which will benefit local people and young people looking for apprenticeship and training opportunities.” 

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