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In his overview of the national landscape Ian Shott gave some pharma related highlights from Innovate UK. Ruth McKernan is Innovate UK’s new chief executive and starts in post on 1 May 2015 and is a boon for the pharmaceutical industry since she is ex-Pfizer and will therefore understand our landscape.

Consultation of all the major parties indicates continued cross party support for technology driven industrialisation as epitomised by the catapult centres. However, the run-up to the election has delayed the Precision Medicine Catapult. It will in all probability now be a single centre with a very strong emphasis on the national network.

Chris Dowle of CPI says that the CPI building in Darlington – the new National Biophrmaceutical Manufacturing Centre – is almost complete; it is due to open at the end of September. Chris has promised that he will organise a tour of the building for First for Pharma members in the Autumn.

It is noted that Newcastle University is picking up the challenge to bring the Ageing agenda to life. This is in response to the £20m promised in the last Autumn Statement for a national ageing centre in Newcastle upon Tyne.

Steve Taylor of Fujifilm Diosynth gave us an update on the business of the Medicines Manufacturing Industry Partnership, the MMIP.

The MMIP seeks to address the sustained decline in (all) medical manufacturing as well as be a place for all medical manufacturing to speak with one voice. Being led by industry (chaired by Ian McCubbin) means this body is substantively different to others and represents all medicines manufacturing including pharma, big and small molecules. They are also only interested in sponsoring change activities and therefore the start point for that is to identify gaps (not replicate what others are doing). This new cohesion has already led to acknowledgement that simplification is needed – this is in areas such as taxation and incentives for businesses looking to locate new manufacturing plants.

SIP (Science Industry Partnership) update: 80% of funding is being used for apprenticeships, then workforce development, STEM training. Anything is considered unless it is regulatory. All applications are assessed case by case. In terms of numbers, over 220 companies have signed up country-wide, the North East is underrepresented and so far only around 24 companies have signed up here. Here the NE the big names to have signed up are MSD, GSK and Fujifilm Diosynth.

Update from Durham’s chemistry department: they are making new molecules in their fluorination lab and are working collaboratively, across disciplines. In this area they are working with industry including a collaboration with High Force Research.

Mike Nicholds introduced Newcells Biotech. This Newcastle University spinout has been successful in raising funds for their new, stem cell based spinout. Mike is a director along with Lyle Armstrong and Majlinda Lako. In the first instance they will express healthy and disease state cell lines to be used for drug discovery and toxicity screening.

There is the possibility of using the technology to develop better disease models in the future.

Phil Elstob is the CEO of Newcastle University spinout Demuris, a natural products drug discovery company. Using novel bacteria and novel isolation methods they have produced a huge, refined and diverse (de-replicated), collection of bacteria. This is in all likelihood the largest such collection in the world. It is used to produce singleton producers and at first it is expected that they will focus on novel antifungal candidates. But also gram negative antibiotics and agrichemicals and dyes.

Exciting news on the Fawdon site! Life-Science science park. Mike Delroy of Sanofi-Aventis revealed that when Sanofi closes the plant in June 2015 the plant will be repurposed to be a life-science follow-on space / grow on space. It will be the place to go when your incubator becomes too small. With so much in its favour – it is already a purpose built medicines manufacturing site which recently had £100m spent on it, it has a metro station, is 10 minutes from the airport, 2 minutes from the A1, is under 15 miles from both Newcastle University and Durham University and there are several biotech startups who are interested in being able to use such a space; all of which companies have attended First for Pharma dinners in the past year. Bidding landlords have now been shortlisted and the choices will be made and approval sought from the Sanofi head office within the next 2 weeks. Mike is very grateful for Ian Shott’s assistance in the matter.

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