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Biotechnology is used extensively across North East England with a number of applications across drug discovery, pharmaceutical production, diagnostics and industrial biotechnology. The North East region as a whole is home to 92 life science companies (operating in R&D or manufacturing) and another 99 companies within the supply chain.

The region is particularly strong in biopharmaceutical process development and manufacturing with the world leading contract manufacturer, Fujifilm Diosynth Biotechnologies, located in Billingham. This company develops processes and has manufacturing capacity for both microbial and mammalian expression systems and has one of the world’s most advanced disposable manufacturing suites. Supporting such manufacturing, the region boasts three multinational suppliers into this industry, namely Merck-Millipore (chromatography media), ThermoFisher Scientific (disposable manufacturing equipment) and Parker domnick-hunter (sterile filtration and DSP equipment). The North East is now also home to CPI’s new Biopharmaceutical Manufacturing Centre in Darlington. This will be at the forefront of developing new processes for the production of future biopharmaceuticals.

There are a number of smaller companies that utilise biotechnology to support the pharmaceutical industry, either with specialist reagents or with drug discovery. Specialist reagents are developed and supplied by Cambridge Research Biochemicals (peptides and antibodies) to academic groups and pharmaceutical companies across the world. Building on the world leading expertise at Newcastle’s International Centre for Life in Embryonic Stem Cell research, a new company, Newcells, is now supplying pharmaceutical companies with induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) which allow the acceleration of the drug discovery process. Also exploiting Newcastle University’s cell biology expertise is Alcyomics which supplies the pharmaceutical industry with specialist skin constructs to predict immunogenicity with greater accuracy than animal models. Another Newcastle company, Glythera, supplies pharmaceutical companies with advanced linker technology for the development of the fast growing Antibody Directed Cytotoxic (ADCs) class of biopharmaceuticals. In addition to these suppliers of cutting edge technology, there are a number of companies using advanced biotechnology and operating in the drug discovery space. These include Demuris (anti-infectives), Shield Therapeutics (Secondary-care focused drugs), E-therapeutics (in-silico discovery), Ariad (Oncology).

The North East is also home to a number of engineering companies with expertise in bioprocess facility construction. One that is growing rapidly is WH Partnership which builds bioprocess facilities, including clean rooms, at its Gateshead Technical Centre in modular form for assembly, locally, around the world.

Our region is also particularly rich in diagnostics companies with multinational presence in terms of Leica Microsystems and Immuno Diagnostic Systems (IDS). There is also Orla Protein Technologies, a Newcastle University spin out, and its associated company OJ Bio, a JV with a major Japanese electronics company. Other notable companies include QuantumDx, which is developing a hand held diagnostic device based on miniaturised DNA sequencing technology. Hart Biologicals is also developing a global reputation for the supply of biochemical reagents for blood coagulation diagnosis. Absolute Antibody has recently moved to the Wilton Centre from Oxford to set up their manufacturing operations making high quality antibodies for diagnostic customers. We also have specialist consultants in the region such as Ithaka Life Sciences specialising in the commercial exploitation of biotechnology.

There are a number of companies exploiting Industrial Biotechnology, or biotransformation in the region. The Indian company Piramal have their global IB process development centre located in the Wilton Centre. Piramal and Shasun Pharma Solutions in Northumberland utilise a number of biotransformation unit operations in their API manufacturing processes. Fine Industries are amongst a number of regional chemical companies utilise IB for fine chemical unit operations. Biotechnology is also being applied to manufacture polymers by Plaxica and functional resins by Cambridge Biopolymers. Also in Northumberland, Prozomics uses advanced high-throughput genome-mining technology to produce novel and highly active enzymes for a wide variety of industries.

The manufactures of Quorn the food protein, Marlow Foods, originated here and still operates in this region. Northumbrian Water have invested into two large scale anaerobic digestion facilities to recover energy from their domestic and industrial waste water streams and in Stockton on Tees Cleveland Biotechnology has been pioneering enzymatic solutions to handling effluents and waste materials

Multinational, INVISTA operates its biotechnology capability out of a research and development lab in the Wilton Centre, developing biological routes to its products and feedstocks. Also in the Wilton Centre is CPI’s National Industrial Biotechnology facility offering scale up facilities for biotech process development. Californian company, Calysta has recently opened a major manufacturing facility at CPI to produce a sustainable fish feed ingredient utilising novel gas fermentation technology.

Members of NEPIC are also focusing on development of bio-refinery concepts which impact on fine and bulk chemicals, pharmaceuticals, dyes, solvents, plastics, vitamins, food additives, agrochemicals and bio-fuels such as bio-ethanol and bio-diesel. Large scale biofuels plants are already operating on Teesside by Ensus and Harvest Energy, while Greenery operate a biofuel blending facility. GrowHow are capturing carbon dioxide from their ammonia based fertilizer business and this is being used to aid the growing of tomatoes in an industrial market garden on Teesside.

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