Novartis has entered into exclusive negotiations with the University of Brighton on the purchase of the drug giant’s site in Horsham.

A year ago, Novartis announced the closure in February, ending research operations at Horsham in the summer, a move that affected around 400 jobs. Last April, it hired PharmaVentures to look at future options, including the setting-up of a science park.

The University of Brighton is now looking to buy the site where it plans to open “an innovative, high-quality centre for higher education”. The university says the centre could create 2,250 new jobs and bring £1.7 billion of investment to the region over 10 years, providing around 3,500 places for students.

PharmaVentures chief executive Fintan Walton said that the potential sale, no figures for which have been mentioned, “would have a huge positive impact on the region and provides a positive legacy for Novartis too”.

Julian Crampton, vice chancellor of the University of Brighton, told the West Sussex County Times that “these discussions are at an early stage", but if the sale goes ahead, it will give "a major boost to jobs, skills and business opportunities in the Gatwick Diamond area".