Major R&D centre planned by pharma firm to develop world-beating inhalation technology

February 11, 2022

Pioneering pharmaceutical firm Vectura is planning to develop a major research and development centre of excellence as it looks for further global growth opportunities under new owner, tobacco group Philip Morris International (PMI).

The Chippenham-headquartered group, which was controversially acquired by PMI for £1.1bn last September, says the centre, pictured, on the Bristol & Bath Science Park would streamline its work on new treatments using its innovative inhalation technology. 

The centre would also create an unspecified number of hi-tech, skilled jobs in areas such as respiratory science, lab technology and respiratory device engineering, the firm said.

Founded in 1997, Vectura has grown from roots in a spin-out from the University of Bath by developing inhalable dry-powder drugs that treat lung conditions such as asthma, emphysema and chronic bronchitis.

Its pioneering approach led to new ways of treating asthma and lung diseases and it earned strong revenues from collaborations and licence agreements with global pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies such as Novartis, Sandoz and GlaxoSmithKline.

So far, its expansion has been in Chippenham, where it has its current main R&D facility. 

But the firm, which employs around 450 people, said its planned new centre would give it a modern and fit-for-purpose working environment that would enhance productivity and efficiency, encourage innovative thinking as well as developing important new treatments for patients.

Vectura’s current R&D facilities in Chippenham are spread across a number of buildings, including laboratory and ‘pilot’ line spaces where new products are developed, while there is also some small-scale manufacturing. 

The firm said its new base would improve on these facilities by allowing it to constantly innovate and refine.

While R&D would relocate to the Bristol & Bath Science Park, pictured, its head office would remain in Chippenham. An option on the science park site was acquired by Vectura in 2020, before its takeover by PMI.

Vectura said the 36-acre science park at Emersons Green near Bristol – which opened in 2011 and was jointly acquired by the University of Bath and South Gloucestershire Council in 2018 – was recognised as a world-class environment providing the space, accessibility and support for science and technology businesses to accelerate their growth and success.

The park is also the location for the University of Bath’s £60m Institute for Advanced Automotive Propulsion Systems (IAAPS), which is conducting world-leading research centre on the car of the future, as well as the National Composites Centre.

South Gloucestershire Council has agreed an ‘in principle’ proposal with Vectura to allow the company to build the new inhalation centre.

The site, pictured, is covered by an outline planning consent for industrial use granted in May 2016 and the science park’s supporting masterplan. 

Vectura’s plans are available to view online at until February 28, with the public being invited to provide feedback in advance of a planning application being submitted to South Gloucestershire Council.

Once submitted, the full planning application will be available to view on the South Gloucestershire Council planning portal.

PMI, which makes Marlboro cigarettes, acquired Vectura despite a storm of protest from dozens of healthcare charities and public health bodies, including Asthma UK and the British Lung Foundation.

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