ULVERSTON may no longer be the site of a £350m biomanufacturing plant which was set to create hundreds of jobs.

Ulverston-based Lakes BioScience is considering a range of options for a site for its new biopharma plant.

Land next to GSK at Ulverston was the initial preferred option for the Lakes BioScience team - and remains a contender.

But other areas of the UK - including in the north of England, Scotland and Wales - are emerging as frontrunners to host the state-of-the-art factory.

With the extra connectivity in other locations - including access to complementary industries and institutions - and with Cumbria so far failing to demonstrate to the Lakes BioScience team that it sees life sciences as a growth industry in the same way as it is viewed nationally, there is a possibility the factory may be built away from Cumbria.

In February, Lakes BioScience, formed from a team of UK industry experts, was granted planning permission to start work on a £350m biomanufacturing plant.

The proposals was poised to create 250 high-value, high-tech jobs at a state-of-the-art factory producing monoclonal antibodies.

The planning permission for groundworks at the site came just days after GSK announced it was set to close its Ulverston factory, with the final 100 plus jobs from what was once a 2,000 plus workforce set to be lost.

A report in The Times this week quoted private equity firm Star Capital as saying that a lack of a long-term Government contract for the proposed Lakes Bioscience plant next to GSK in Ulverston had thwarted the deal.

Lakes BioScience has responded by saying it is pursuing private sector supply contracts and also investigating the possibility of regional state support in areas across the UK.

Pat McIver, Lakes BioScience director, said: “We are from Ulverston, we have the connection with GSK, and we have the skills in the local area so our heart very much remains with the Ulverston option.

“But we have also had discussions in other areas in the north of England, Scotland and Wales which have different advantages and they have made it very clear they are keen to have a facility like ours in those areas.

“In many ways, given the infrastructure, industry, research and development, universities and other institutions which have already developed in those areas a Lakes BioScience factory would complete the jigsaw.

“Combined with the fact that Cumbria hasn’t yet set out its support for developing life sciences in the county - despite the Government making it clear it is a priority for the UK - there is a real possibility that we may pursue opportunities elsewhere. We are considering all options at the moment.”

Lakes BioScience will manufacture antibody therapies at a specially designed and built plant, which will link-up with the UK’s leading network of biopharma research and development organisations as well as learning and training institutions.

Lakes BioScience will deliver benefits for patients and industry partners as well as those who will take up an estimated 250 new highly-skilled jobs at the state-of-the-art factory.

Mr McIver said: “Life sciences has been a strong focus during the pandemic but up until now a lot of the manufacturing has been outside the UK. That focus is now shifting to build that innovation and talent within the UK.

“Lakes BioScience is going to create a global Contract Development & Manufacturing Organisation (CDMO) which is able to be dynamic and agile in its UK manufacturing capability to meet changing market requirements.”

Simon Fell, MP for Barrow and Furness, said Lakes BioScience is 'stuck in a difficult chicken and egg position'.

He said: "As chair of the GSK Taskforce I can honestly say that the community at every level is offering unprecedented support to Lakes BioScience to make their venture a success and ensure that Ulverston’s legacy of advanced life sciences continues well into the future.

"Supporting them has become a feature of my week - only this morning I discussed their case again with the Life Sciences Minister.

"They sit firmly at the centre of the master planning exercise being done by South Lakes, and their proposed plant would sit on donation land from GSK.

"But the fact remains that the Government can’t just gift them a contract and so they are stuck in a difficult chicken and egg position. That’s what we hope to unlock early in the new year."