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Stake In £1B UK Life Sciences Scheme Goes On Sale As Boom Continues

Part of the Oxford Science Park

Magdalen College, Oxford, knows a thing or two about science. It was founded in 1458, and famous alumni include Sir Howard Florey, the Australian pharmacologist who shared the Nobel Prize for Medicine in 1945; and Sir Peter Medawar, whose work on tissue grafting laid the way for organ transplants. Magdalen knows a thing or two about making money from science too. 

This week, the college launched the sale of a 40% stake in the Oxford Science Park, one of the UK’s largest life sciences campuses. The scheme comprises 250K SF of leased and managed buildings, housing about 100 tenants. They include Oxford Nanopore, developer of a genome sequencing technology that can decode the DNA and RNA of any living organism; and Vaccitech, the immunotherapy and vaccine company behind the Oxford Covid-19 vaccine and which recently floated on Nasdaq.

The site also has 14.75 acres of development land, which Cushman & Wakefield, advising Magdalen on the sale, said could house a further 430K SF of lab and office space. The scheme could be worth £1B once fully developed, Cushman said. The new partner is expected to help accelerate the development of the new space.

UK life sciences is attracting a huge amount of interest from global capital, given the resilience the sector has shown during various economic cycles and the potential for expansion as both the public and private sector invest in science, helping companies in the sector to expand. Brookfield and Harrison Street have recently struck big deals in the sector. 

Oxford Science Park was developed in 1991 in a 50/50 joint venture with the real estate arm of M&G. In 2016, Magdalen struck what now looks like an incredibly canny deal on its part: It bought M&G’s stake in the park for £18M in a deal funded by a long-term loan. 

No price has been put on the current process, but CoStar reported that the sale could fetch as much as £200M, given the size of the opportunity and the amount of capital targeting the sector. Any deal approaching that would mean a pretty tidy uplift in the space of five years. Oxbridge colleagues are among the largest landowners in Britain. Magdalen appears to have used its land wisely. 

Bisnow is holding a digital summit on the UK life sciences sector on 22 June. To find out all you need to know about this booming sector, sign up here.