Opening of £38m centre of excellence in Darlington
A £38M centre of excellence can revolutionise medicines and put the North-East at the vanguard of global health treatments. That was the proud boast of bosses at The Centre for Process Innovation (CPI), as they officially opened the Darlington National Biologics Manufacturing Centre today (Wednesday, September 30).
The site will provide firms with technical backing to research and develop potentially life-saving cures and vaccines, including cancer treatments and therapies for rheumatoid arthritis and multiple sclerosis.
Officials say it will also tackle the US’ stronghold on the life sciences sector, raising the UK’s repute by supporting companies’ growth and helping take their concepts to market.
The base was officially opened by Jo Johnson, Universities and Science Minister, who hailed it “money exceptionally well spent.”
Nigel Perry, CPI chief executive, said the site, which has brought scores of highly-skilled jobs to the region, offers the perfect platform for further growth in the organisation and the biologics industry, both in the North-East and the UK.
He said: “The UK is first-class for healthcare development and this is a world-class asset.
I’m over the moon with this building, and it is a real example of Darlington and the North-East leading the way.
“This is a tremendous achievement, and it’s now over to the industry to take advantage of what is here.
“The centre will significantly increase the UK’s manufacturing capability in biologics, and it will enable companies to test and trial new ideas cheaply and quickly with minimised risk.
“That means new and innovative medicines will reach the market faster and provide improved care for patients and better opportunities for businesses.”
Mr Perry said the impact of CPI, which has its head office at Wilton, near Redcar, and runs the National Printable Electronics Centre at NetPark, in Sedgefield, County Durham, can be a real driver in strengthening the regional and UK economy.
He added the building’s position, close to Darlington’s Bank Top station, would also prove crucial to its success.
He said: “The thing that really excites me is that I can see the North-East, including Darlington and Teesside, starting to build a real sense of pride.
“You can feel the buzz all around you.
“We know we can do these things and this development is just the catalyst for more in this region.
“We have the connections to the rest of the UK and are extremely well placed to support the industry.”
Darlington fended off other UK sites to the secure the centre, including science powerhouse Cambridge, with the development’s £38m investment made by the Department for Business Innovation and Skills.
The Northern Echo understands the CPI already has a list of projects for the base, including a partnership with Midatech Biogune, which is focused on insulin patches capable of delivering slow release treatments through strips in the mouth.
The CPI is also expected to work with Arecor and Fujifilm Diosynth Biotechnologies, based in Billingham, near Stockton, on ways to improve the shelf-life of medicines.
Mr Johnson, brother of London Mayor Boris Johnson, took a tour of the site, and told guests he was impressed by the facility.
He said: “The CPI is doing something special here, and the factory is money exceptionally well spent.
“Biologics need to be made cheaper and quicker, and that is why we have built this centre.
“Innovation will continue to be a crucial driver in the growth of the UK.
“We want the UK to be the best place in the world and this centre will ensure Darlington and the North-East will remain at the forefront, while strengthening the UK’s position of choice for life science companies.”
Steve Bagshaw, Fujifilm chief executive, also opened the site.
He added: “This is an industry bringing hope for the next generation, and this centre is so important for the industry.
“It is part of the infrastructure the UK needs to be a leading player.
“This is a real opportunity to influence what goes on in the sector.”
WHAT IS THE CPI?
The CPI is a national technology and innovation centre for the process manufacturing industry
It provides facilities and knowledge to help customers to deliver products to the market faster by proving their commercial strength
It has worked with thousands of 2,000 firms, from large pharmaceutical and manufacturing companies, such as Rolls-Royce and Procter and Gamble, to smaller start-ups.
Successfully completing in excess of 350 public and private projects, worth more than £300m, the CPI last year revealed it was supporting the Darlington-based National Horizons Centre, which will back emerging industries and could create thousands of North-East jobs.
At NetPark, CPI’s labs have also played a key role in helping PolyPhotonix produce sleep masks capable of transforming the treatment of eye disease in diabetes sufferers.
Funded by £14m of taxpayers’ money, bosses say the masks could save the NHS £1bn a year.
WHAT ARE BIOLOGICS?
A biopharmaceutical, or biologic, is any medicinal product made in or extracted from biological sources, such as bacteria.
Antibodies, which may be used to target or destroy cancer cells
Vaccines to prevent infectious diseases, such as flu and Ebola
Insulin for the treatment of diabetes
Hormones and enzymes to replace missing proteins in rare genetic disorders