Croda International has been awarded a £15.9 million grant by the UK Government to expand its manufacturing facility in Leek, Staffordshire.

The company, which is matching the investment, will focus on enhancing the development of high-purity lipid systems – essential delivery systems for next-generation nucleic acid drugs such as mRNA vaccines.

On-going investment will be made in assets and capabilities to support pharmaceutical customers with leading solutions for the delivery and enhancement of novel therapeutic drugs, vaccines and gene therapies.

It will also materially strengthen the UK’s supply chain in this critical area and ensure that the country is well prepared in the event of future health emergencies

The expansion will include building a state-of-the-art lipid system synthesis facility and enhancing innovation and analytical laboratory capabilities at Leek. The site specialises in the production of lipids, that are currently used in a number of COVID-19 mRNA vaccines, as well as other Croda health care technologies such as speciality excipients. The investment will expand the range of speciality lipids produced at the site and add significant additional production capacity.

Lipid systems offer significant potential beyond COVID-19 as the preferred delivery system for gene editing and mRNA therapeutics. The range of applications for lipid systems is expected to expand rapidly as the platform develops through clinical trials to commercial launches of new RNA-based applications, such as flu vaccines and cancer treatments..

The Secretary of State for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy Kwasi Kwarteng said: “The development of mRNA technology for use in vaccines and essential treatments has been one of the greatest scientific leaps forward since the start of the pandemic, and the potential for its use in future therapies – potentially treating cancer and heart disease – is remarkable.

“I am therefore extremely pleased to announce this support for Croda, a market leader in the manufacture of essential mRNA components, and the only manufacturer of lipids currently operating in the UK.”

Croda Life Sciences president Daniele Piergentili said: “We are grateful to the UK Government for its support for this important project. It shares our belief that lipid systems offer significant potential for the safe and efficient delivery of next generation vaccines and therapeutic drugs. This investment will meaningfully enhance our lipid system capability and manufacturing capacity, ensuring that Croda plays a central role in both the development and future supply of this important delivery technology.”