AstraZeneca, the UK drugmaker, is set to proceed with improvements at its Cheshire manufacturing facility, having said a month ago that Brexit meant it had to pause before undertaking new investment.
At the end of July, Pascal Soriot, chief executive, suggested plans to invest in UK manufacturing were on ice following the vote to leave the EU, saying: “I think if we have to make investments today in terms of manufacturing, and people said would you invest in the UK, I would say we will wait to see.”
However, the FTSE 100 drugmaker confirmed on Sunday that it planned to announce on Wednesday “another mid-sized investment” in its Macclesfield factory. It declined to give further details. The company committed £150m to the facility last year and 1,800 people are employed there. The move was first reported by the Sunday Telegraph.
An AstraZeneca spokesman said the company was simply going ahead with “ongoing improvements in our Macclesfield site; any larger investment decisions in the manufacturing plant have not been confirmed and are under consideration as we previously said.”
The announcement of the Macclesfield investment is to be made at Birmingham’s Institute of Translational Medicine, where Sir John Bell, professor of medicine at Oxford, is also set to publish a report for the government on how to boost the UK’s life sciences sector.
In July, Mr Soriot asked for clarity before committing to investments in the Macclesfield plant.
“We have additional investment we are going to have to make over the next few years, potentially in Macclesfield, and we need clarity there. I hope the clarity will come soon,” he said.
Uncertainty facing the pharmaceutical industry after the UK leaves the EU was “slowing down decision-making and making people reluctant to invest,” Mr Soriot added.
But he also said the company, which has its headquarters in Cambridge, remained committed to the UK. The country had “a unique opportunity” in life sciences given the quality of the science base, the availability of data from the NHS and of venture capital. “But we need clarity and the government knows that,” he added.
He said there had been “no real discussion” about the post-Brexit landscape despite the impending loss of “30 years or more of accumulated regulations”. The issues to be resolved were regulation, where drugs would have to be registered both in the UK and in Europe, and duties on imports and exports, he said.
In the meantime, a spokesperson for the comany said that: “No decisions have been made regarding future investment in the manufacturing capacity; as we previously said, these will be considered in due course as we get better visibility of the post-Brexit lifesciences environment.”
This article has been amended to clarify the nature of AstraZeneca’s investment