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23 July 2020

Sale of vaccine manufacturing assets to Cell and Gene Therapy Catapult

Benchmark is pleased to announce that it has entered into a Business Purchase Agreement relating to the business and assets comprising its vaccine manufacturing facility at Braintree, UK to Cell and Gene Therapy Catapult  for £16m payable in cash on completion. The consideration is gross of certain exit and transaction costs which are currently estimated to be c.£4m. Completion of the Sale is subject to closing conditions.

CGT Catapult is a centre of excellence in innovation, with the core purpose of building a world-leading cell and gene therapy sector in the UK as a key part of a global industry. CGT Catapult is supported by Innovate UK, with a mission to drive the growth of the industry by helping cell and gene therapy organisations across the world translate early stage research into commercially viable and investable therapies. CGT Catapult counts over 230 experts, state of the art development and viral vector laboratories and a large scale GMP manufacturing centre helping bring cell and gene therapies to market in the UK and internationally.

Earlier this year Benchmark announced that it had initiated a review of its vaccine strategy, including manufacturing and R&D, to determine the best route to deliver a return from its investment in this business to date.

Benchmark Vaccines Ltd

The Government’s strategy to build infrastructure in the UK to scale the manufacture of vaccines and therapeutics in support of the response to Covid-19 created a perfect solution to ensure that our vaccine manufacturing facility is put to best use and to secure employment for its workforce. Benchmark’s Braintree facility and team have a wide range of GMP (good manufacturing practice) accredited capabilities including antigen production, formulation, process development and scale manufacturing and can be rapidly repurposed to produce human vaccines. The state of the art facility, which was completed in 2017, employs 75 highly qualified staff who we are delighted to announce will transfer to CGT Catapult on completion of the Sale.

The transaction is a significant milestone in Benchmark’s strategy to reduce its cost base and focus on its core areas to achieve profitability. The proceeds from the Sale do not represent a profit to Benchmark, but are based on the facility’s asset value and have been agreed to support the Government’s vaccine strategy. The proceeds will further strengthen the Group’s financial position and liquidity, with total potential consideration from recent disposals, including this Sale, of c.£42m.

Trond Williksen, CEO, commented:

“I am very pleased to announce this transaction which is another significant step forward in our strategy of becoming a streamlined, profitable business focused on our key areas of competency.

“Benchmark is also delighted that the timing and conclusion of our vaccine strategy review coincides with the need to scale capabilities to manufacture human vaccines in response to Covid-19 and that the talented team at Benchmark will become part of this critical effort.”

Peter George, Chairman, commented:

“I am extremely pleased that Benchmark has been able to be part of the UK solution for vaccine manufacturing. We were in the process of evaluating this sector when Covid-19 broke, and following communications with Sir Patrick Vallance, the Government Vaccine Taskforce, and with special thanks to the hard work of Kate Bingham and her team, this is the outcome. I am delighted that we have a long-term solution for the workforce, which has always been our desired outcome. I would like to highlight the Government’s foresight in identifying the possibilities here and moving quickly on this decision.

“I am proud to say that Benchmark is exiting the Covid-19 lockdown period in a stronger financial position than we entered, due to our focus on completing our well developed restructuring programme.”

Matthew Durdy, CEO Cell and Gene Therapy Catapult said:

“This commitment from the Government through the BEIS Vaccines Taskforce will enable continued growth and productivity in the cell and gene therapy sector, as well as providing vital resource for vaccine manufacturing and economic recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic.

“We are delighted to welcome the team from Benchmark to the Catapult family and be able to deploy the specialist capabilities of the Cell and Gene Therapy Catapult in such an important initiative.  Accelerating the availability of Covid-19 vaccines, keeping skills and employment, and facilitating growth of the advanced medicines industry will make a valuable contribution to the recovery of the economy.”

For further information, please contact:

MHP Communications       

Tel:  07551 170 451 / 07875 744 070

   benchmark@mphc.com