Dr Jen Vanderhoven, Director of the National Horizons Centre, a £22.3m state-of-the-art national centre of excellence for the bioscience industries, says the north is the ideal location for a new plant.

As the director of a national centre which is part of Teesside University, and former Vice-President of FUJIFILM Diosynth Biotechnologies where she developed business change and innovation programmes, Dr Vanderhoven said building the plant in the north would also fit with the Government’s “Levelling-Up” agenda.

Dr Vanderhoven said: “I would love to see a new biopharmaceutical manufacturing plant in the north. It’s not just that it would bring 250 to 300 highly-skilled, highly-paid jobs to the region with salaries two or three times the national average.

“It’s also because the north does biopharmaceutical manufacturing really well. It has the skilled workforce, the history of manufacturing, and it would make economic sense as it would be cheaper to manufacture in the north.

“Areas such as Cumbria and the Tees Valley have key skills and knowledge embedded in their workforce through their historic links with major multinationals such as GSK and ICI.

“As a national centre of excellence for the bioscience industries, the National Horizons Centre is in a position to work with partners from across the UK and beyond. However, it would be fantastic to see a plant like this in a northern location.

“From our base in Darlington, with easy access to rail and road links, we’re right at the heart of the north and in a perfect location to provide the skills and training needs to provide the skills and training to a biomanufacturing plant.”

Dr Vanderhoven was previously the manager of a Government-funded Industrial Biotechnology Network where she worked with more than 150 bioscience companies and academics across the UK to help co-author the UK National Industrial Biotechnology Strategy to 2030.

She said: “The Covid-19 pandemic has shown precisely why bioscience is so important.

“From vaccine manufacturing to testing, we have seen a real need for hundreds, if not thousands, of highly skilled jobs in this sector.

“Training these people and ensuring that they have the necessary skills will be critical and as a university-based institution we’re perfectly placed to do just that.”

The National Horizons Centre, in Darlington, which works regionally, nationally and internationally as a hub of a wider biopharmaceutical network, supports excellence in the industry with its three main areas of focus:

  • training and education, including PhDs and Masters qualifications;
  • research into bioprocessing and associated digital technologies;
  • partnerships with industry.
  • Lakes BioScience, formed from a team of industry experts, is one such company looking to develop the UK’s capacity and capability in biopharmaceutical manufacturing.

    Lakes BioScience is planning to build, commission and qualify a £350m biopharmaceuticals site in Ulverston, Cumbria. The business says its consortium has the knowledge, experience and proven track record to deliver fast, agile excellence in UK biopharmaceutical manufacturing.

    A founding director of Lakes BioScience, Pat McIver has more than 30 years’ pharma industry experience including leadership roles in commercial, sterile pharmaceuticals manufacturing, and strategic programme management.

    Mr McIver said: “What we are looking to do at Lakes BioScience is build a manufacturing capability for the UK in monoclonal antibodies and we are doing that in the north of England in an area known for its skills and expertise in the pharmaceutical manufacturing sector.

    “We will build on a rich regional and national capability and create high-value jobs in the north of England in a fast-growing sector to deliver life-changing and life-saving treatments.”

    The Lakes BioScience scheme will:

  • Build an agile, customer-focused, biopharmaceutical monoclonal antibody manufacturing and process development factory;
  • Put the UK at the forefront of biopharma scientific research, development and manufacture with Lakes BioScience planning to build a start-of-the art, fully digitised operation building on all the learning from the best practices around the world and putting it into one dynamic UK operation;
  • Create 250 high value jobs at a £350m biopharmaceuticals site in the north of England.
  • Mr McIver said: “Our ambition is to be the very best biopharmaceutical manufacturing organisation in the world and we have the people, here in the UK, that can make that happen.”