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New heart disease treatments under microscope at Darlington's National Biologics Manufacturing Centre

New heart disease treatments under microscope at Darlington's National Biologics Manufacturing Centre

Pioneering medical work to repair patients' damaged organs and treat heart disease is being developed at the CPI's £38m Darlington laboratory.

The Centre for Process Innovation (CPI) is spearheading a project aimed at replacing human cells, which it says could help peoples’ bodies regain normal functions.

The £1.8m work, carried out alongside Cobra Biologics, is being done at CPI’s Darlington-based National Biologics Manufacturing Centre, which officials say can put the North-East at the vanguard of global health treatments.

The Cobra venture is focused on developing equipment, known as AAV vectors, which are used to carry out gene therapy treatment.

Officials say the Darlington work seeks to improve understanding and manufacturing of the vectors, so more remedies can get to market, which they say could eventually provide antidotes for ailments such as heart disease, Parkinson’s and spinal cord injuries.

Dr Fergal O’Brien, CPI director of biologics, said the partnership will accelerate the amount of potential medicines in testing and subsequently in use.

He said: “We are delighted to be collaborating with Cobra and applying our expertise in developing scalable and industrial manufacturing platforms to AAV production.

“We see this as a key enabler in meeting the current and future needs of the biologics industry and are delighted to be supporting a leading UK company.”

Peter Coleman, Cobra Biologics’ chief executive, said its work with CPI will offer a new dimension in healthcare while retaining the business’ position in gene therapy.

He added: “We have been a leading organisation in the development of the gene therapy sector for more than 15 years and have seen through customers an extraordinary growth in new potential medicines being put forward that utilise viral vectors as part of their production.

“This collaboration with CPI will help address the need for a scalable AAV production process.”

The project, which has received £1.4m backing from the Government’s Innovate UK body, is one of five in a wider £8m Whitehall development focused on taking cell therapies from ideas to reality.

CPI’s Darlington site was officially opened last year by Jo Johnson, Universities and Science Minister, and brother of Eurosceptic, Boris Johnson, who hailed it “money exceptionally well spent.”

Delivering highly-skilled jobs and providing firms with technical backing to research and develop potentially life-saving cures and vaccines, including cancer treatments and therapies for rheumatoid arthritis, officials say they hope it will tackle the US’ stronghold on the life sciences sector.

Speaking to The Northern Echo at its opening, Nigel Perry, CPI chief executive, said: “The UK is first-class for healthcare development and this is a world-class asset.

“This building is a real example of Darlington and the North-East leading the way and it’s now over to the industry to take advantage of what is here.”

CPI also operates a site at NetPark, in Sedgefield, County Durham, which is supporting a project focused on creating a breathalyser to transform diabetes treatment by monitoring more closely patients’ glucose levels.