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Chiron, the vaccines manufacturer with 600 staff in Speke, is to be acquired by Novartis, after the Swiss company offered $5bn for the remaining 58% stake.

Chiron has sold its needle-free injection technology to PowderMed, a new company set up by former managers of Powderject.

Chiron has started work on the £53m expansion of its vaccine manufacturing plant in Liverpool, in order to cope with rising demand from the US.

Chiron of the US is looking to sell its SBL vaccines division in Sweden, in order to help fund a £85m expansion plan that will safeguard 600 jobs at the recently-acquired Powderject plant on Merseyside.