Merit Health ramps up work on £66m contract after sealing significant investment

Offsite construction specialist Merit Health is driving forward a £66m contract after securing investment.

The Cramlington company, which forms part of Merit Holdings, was launched in October 2020 to recognise its prowess in the health and life sciences sector. Since its launch the firm has won and completed a number of significant projects.

Last November Merit – a former North East Company of the Year – was appointed as the main contractor for the construction of the UK’s first CAR-T cell manufacturing facility in Stevenage, a deal which will see it use its next generation offsite construction techniques.

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Now the business has secured £2m from the Tees Valley Catalyst Fund (TVCF) to enable it to fulfil the contract, the largest amount available from the TVCF.

FW Capital made the TVCF investment to allow Merit to fulfil its bond requirements for the contract to design, build and fit out the CAR-T Cell Manufacturing facility for US organisation Autolus, in association with developers Reef Group.

Autolus Therapeutics is expanding its current capabilities in the new 76,000 sqft facility in the Hertfordshire town, where it will develop CAR T-cell therapies for cancer treatment.

The therapies help to re-programme patients’ immune systems so they can more easily recognise cancer cells. Once finished, the facility is expected to process 2,000 treatments a year.

Merit Health’s design will use its Merit Flexi Pod and Pre-Assembled Modules (PAM) platform approach, in which 300 modules will be manufactured at its Cramlington factory before being shipped to Stevenage to be installed by the firm’s specialist teams.

The £2m investment represents the second time FW Capital has supported Merit Holdings, following on from a previous TVCF investment in 2015. The funding has helped secure nearly 200 jobs at the business.

The deal was facilitated by FW Capital investment executives Allison Routledge and Jordan McGorrigan.

A CGI of the Stevenage facility Merit has been contracted to build (Image: Autolus Therapeutics)

Ms Routledge said: “We are delighted to develop our long-term partnership with Merit Health by providing this investment.

“Merit is a successful and ambitious company that has a strong ESG strategy, delivering low carbon solutions to its clients and this fits with FW Capital’s own strong environmental ethos. This significant investment has not only helped to secure a new contract to advance medical science but will also safeguard 70 jobs for the local area.”

Matthew McGrady, Merit Health finance director, said: “Merit is at the forefront of transforming medicine production facilities, collaborating with life science clients to design and build the next generation of industrially innovative facilities for cell and gene manufacturing by using a highly integrated and environmentally friendly approach.

“We are very grateful to FW Capital for their ongoing support. This investment will allow us to further the ambition of the cell and gene therapy industry to bring innovative new medicines to patients as quickly as possible.”

Managed by FW Capital, the Tees Valley Catalyst Fund is designed to help companies bid for work and is backed by the Government’s Regional Growth Fund. It provides loans for performance bond guarantees. Performance bonds provide a financial guarantee to a client that a supplier will deliver on time and to standard.

The fund offers short-term debt investments from £100,000 to £2m to support businesses bidding for contracts. The fund is £10m but returns are reinvested with the aim to provide £45m of investment.

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Coreena FordChronicle and Journal business writer