Developers have broken ground on the development of a new science lab on the site of a former car park in Stevenage, after full planning permission was granted earlier this year.

The £66 million scheme on the Marshgate car park site will become the European Manufacturing Headquarters of Autolus.

Today, and ground breaking ceremony took place, marking a milestone for the start of the works.

The Comet: CGI of new Autolus HQ in Marshgate, StevenageCGI of new Autolus HQ in Marshgate, Stevenage (Image: Reef Group)

The event was attended by representatives from Stevenage Borough Council, Autolus USA and UK, Reef Estates, UBS, Stevenage Development Board, Hertfordshire Local Enterprise Partnership and Stevenage Bio-Science Catalyst.

The development by Reef Estates received planning permission in August, with work planned to start immediately and scheduled for completion in 2023.

Autolus, a biopharmaceutical company, is focused on the development of precisely targeted, controlled and highly active T Cell therapies that are designed to offer cancer patients substantial benefits over existing standards of care.

This facility will be the UK’s first purpose built CAR T- Cell manufacturing unit and will assist in the growth of the cell and gene therapy cluster in Stevenage - currently the third largest in the world.

Leader of Stevenage Borough Council Sharon Taylor said: “I am very proud that Stevenage is home to a world-leading life science cluster already.

"This development will further enhance this and cement our standing as a leading STEM location within the UK. Autolus’ work perfectly complements the activities of the Cell and Gene Therapy Catapult already in Stevenage.

"We look forward to continuing to support this work with the life sciences sector to put Stevenage on the national map for the life science sector."

Cllr Sandra Barr, Mayor of Stevenage added: “As we celebrate our 75th anniversary this year, it gives me great pleasure to see this happening right here in the town centre, bringing with it enormous benefits for the people of Stevenage, which includes employment and apprenticeship opportunities for young people – our next generation.”

The 81,000 sq ft building is designed to be net-zero carbon emission by using heat source pumps and heat recovery systems, significantly reducing waste through the use of 5D BIM technology and, through hybrid construction with 75 per cent offsite manufactured content, resulting in significantly reduced carbon emissions.

Cllr John Gardner, executive portfolio holder for regeneration added: “Today’s event marks an important milestone for Autolus developing their European Manufacturing Headquarters in Stevenage, and a key moment for our regeneration and Towns Fund programme.

"We’ve retained part of the Marshgate site as a car park to serve the needs of the local community and I look forward to this development bringing footfall to our town and supporting the local economy.”

Will Rohleder, development director at Reef Group said: “This has been fantastic public/private partnership to realise such an important facility in Stevenage town centre. Autolus have decided to locate their manufacturing HQ in the town creating over 400 jobs and committing their future to Stevenage, which is experiencing significant investment and regeneration.

"We look forward to working with all parties to complete this first phase and bring forward our wider life science vision for the town centre over the next few years.”

Olivia Drew at UBS-AM REPM commented: “We are very excited to partner with Reef on a GMP-led facility in the centre of Stevenage, a globally recognised hub of scientific innovation.

"Stevenage offers all of the key structural drivers we see as being necessary to support a thriving life sciences eco-system, as demonstrated by Autolus’ significant commitment to the area. We would also like to thank Stevenage Borough Council and the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities for their ongoing support of this development.”

At launch Autolus is expected to treat 600 patients in the UK and US, and expect to ramp up to 2,000 patients within three years.

Commenting on the start of work, Adrian Hawkins, the independent Chair of the Stevenage Development Board said: “I am privileged to work with many local businesses, local councils, government and many others, to help achieve our shared ambitions for Stevenage to be a true STEM city, attracting new jobs and opportunities for local people.

“This project helps demonstrate to our community, to our government and beyond, that here in Stevenage we have a national asset, a town with so many ingredients to help grow our UK economy, create jobs and success.

“Many thanks to Sharon Taylor and her team at the council, whom have demonstrated both their clear ability, knowledge, hard work and speed in proposing suitable development sites and several competent contractors to Autolus, which has since resulted in the projects swift progress to planning permission, a land sale, and now the start here on site today.

“We are delighted that the company will eventually move into its new production space and stay within the Town. Their presence providing higher skilled employment and assisting with our “levelling up” programme for our residents.

“This is a positive step for the town, and alongside the successful Towns Fund bid of £38M by the Stevenage Development Board, we are now making great progress."