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Biologics lift for UK

Published on 22/04/14 at 08:17am
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Work has begun on a key new £38 million centre in Central Park, Darlington, which should increase the biologics capability of the UK.

Due for completion in 2015, the National Biologics Manufacturing Centre (NBMC) is part of the government’s Strategy for UK Life Sciences, which was launched by prime minister David Cameron in 2011 and updated last year.

Biopharma has a strong R&D pipeline in the UK, and one of the big carrots dangled by the new facility will be the chance to make more therapies available for unmet clinical needs.

NBMC will create medicines via biological processes rather than by chemical synthesis, and the new venture will make it easier for the biopharma sector to move therapies from bench to bedside and “encourage innovative solutions in the UK healthcare market”, its backers insist.

The Centre for Process Innovation (CPI), which is part of the High Value Manufacturing Catapult, will establish and manage the NBMC and its role is to promote collaboration with industry across the supply chain from research through to manufacture and clinic.  

CPI director of biologics Chris Dowle says it will “work with industry and academia to deliver new innovation to enhance the competiveness of the UK biologics economy”.

In a statement the organisation says: “CPI’s team of scientists, engineers and sector specialists will help companies of all sizes to develop, demonstrate, prototype and scale-up innovations that could be beneficial to biologics manufacture and provision, from initial programme scoping and planning through to process demonstration and scale-up.”

Steve Bagshaw, chief executive of Fujifilm Diosynth Biotechnologies says: “The NBMC is an excellent opportunity to bring industry, academia and the funding agencies together to create the best possible environment for UK biotechnology to grow.”

It has not escaped local politicians and businesspeople that the multi-million construction is also a significant boost to the economy of the north-east of England.

“This is a fantastic indication of how far Central Park has come,” says Bill Dixon, leader of Darlington Borough Council and deputy chairman of Tees Valley Unlimited. “It sends out a clear message that people want to invest in Darlington.”

He adds: “We beat off tough competition to secure this national centre for excellence and it will provide the foundations for a biomedical and pharmaceutical industry to prosper in Darlington. The kinds of jobs it will create are highly skilled and knowledge-based which is great news for young people who want to stay in the area and secure a skilled job.”

The project is an excellent example of what can be achieved through genuine partnership, says Sandy Anderson, chair of Tees Valley Unlimited. “The healthcare industry and CPI have worked closely with Darlington Council and TVU, the Local Enterprise Partnership for the Tees Valley, to make this investment in innovate technology possible,” he adds.

Other developments in translational research over the past 12 months include the government’s innovation and knowledge centre for synthetic biology, which was part of a new industrial strategy unveiled by business secretary Vince Cable.

The £180 million biomedical catalyst fund has also made its first payouts to small businesses and academics to help them come up with healthcare solutions.

Adam Hill

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