Momentum is growing at the UK's new National Biomanufacturing Centre (NBC) as its operator Eden Biodesign inked a second contract at the centre - set up to establish England's Northwest as one of the top biomanufacturing hubs in Europe.
Under the new contract, Eden will develop and manufacture monoclonal antibodies against a novel cancer antigen, to be used in investigational cancer-killing drugs being developed by the University of Liverpool.
Monoclonal antibodies have been hailed as the cutting edge of science and are being used to develop new biopharmaceuticals that can specifically target antigens unique to cancer cells and destroy these cells without harming healthy tissue.
They are produced through a method called bioprocessing, which involves taking living cells and turning them into manufacturing units.
The UK is now second only to the US in terms of its biopharmaceuticals development pipeline, however, the country's industry still lags a long way behind the US and the UK government has been making a concerted effort to close this gap.
The NBC, which officially opens later this year in Speake, is a £34.3m (€49.8m) government-funded initiative led by the Northwest Regional Development Agency (NRDA) to assist UK academia in developing and commercialising their biopharma discoveries.
Biopharma development and manufacturing services firm, Eden Biodesign won the contract to operate the centre on behalf of the NRDA.
The NBC provides the expertise and facilities to support new and existing biotech companies, offering product development services designed to fill in the skill and resource gaps.
It also provides training in biomanufacturing and analytical sciences, delivering the skilled workforce required to expand the UK biopharmaceutical sector.
There is also an Access Fund of nearly £3m to small to medium companies and academic groups biotech firms who need assistance in purchasing development and clinical manufacturing services from the NBC.
Back in 2004, the UK Government also launched a ten-year nationwide Science and Innovation Investment Framework to support businesses investing in new and emerging technologies in this pharmaceutical field, allocating to the cause £320m worth of grants to encourage research and development companies until 2008.
Currently, over 50 UK companies are now planting the seeds for UK's biopharma future, growing a pipeline of over 127 products in pre-clinical trials, 70 products in clinical trials and 4 products in pre-registration.