On topic: The Biosphere takes shape

July 20, 2019

New lab facility fast becoming a leading location for ambitious life science companies

Based at Newcastle Helix, The Biosphere is a specialist lab facility tailored to the commercialisation of life sciences. The building is a significant investment for the local economy, marking a clear commitment from the city to the growth of the sector.

So much has been achieved since 2015, the design, construction and operation of this new facility, which is now home to ten dynamic life science businesses with global life-changing ambitions. Companies based at The Biosphere include Iksuda Therapeutics, NorthGene, Jiahua, MDNA Life Sciences, Northern Retrieval Registry, Alcyomics, Atelerix, NewChem, Biberchem and Demuris.

It is also home to nine local firms who have been selected to take part in the Ageing Innovators programme, which aims to tackle some of the challenges faced by the UK’s ageing society.

They are spending six months working at this specialist facility, allowing them to undertake research and receive support to bring their new products and services to market.

Ageing Innovators is being delivered by the Innovation SuperNetwork in partnership with the National Innovation Centre for Ageing at Newcastle University, Newcastle City Council, Northstar Ventures and Aging2.0.

Councillor Ged Bell, cabinet member for employment and investment, Newcastle City Council, says: “We now have the right infrastructure that will allow new and growing life science businesses to thrive, and as this happens it will bring more opportunities and jobs to the local area in this emerging and exciting new sector. This, coupled with the innovative community on Newcastle Helix, will help accelerate growth, entrepreneurial activity and the commercialisation of ideas within life sciences.”

NorthGene, a provider of DNA- based relationship testing and human identity services, was among the first companies to move into The Biosphere. The company needed cutting-edge lab facilities to support the rapid growth of their business and the expansion of its testing repertoire.

NorthGene is joined by Iksuda Therapeutics, which is creating next generation biopharmaceutical drugs that target difficult to treat cancers and Atelerix, which has transformative technology for the storage and transport of viable cells at room temperature, overcoming the barriers and limitations presented by the current need for cryo-shipping.

The fact The Biosphere is located on Newcastle Helix is really adding value for the businesses, they get to be part of an innovative community that combines commercial and residential space with world-class research and education facilities.

This landmark 24-acre city centre development is the only one of its kind in the UK and is surrounded by a £1.1 billion life science eco-system. The region is home to one of the UK’s largest NHS trusts, which has been rated outstanding for the second year running and has built a global reputation as a UK hotspot for clinical trials. Life sciences businesses also have access to assets that support the entire bench to bedside pathway – all playing a vital role in life science growth and innovation.

Alan Welby, innovation director at the North East Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP), says: “The Biosphere offers regional facilities but with a global vision, presenting a welcoming home for ambitious companies within life sciences, healthcare and emerging fields of biotechnology.

“Being based at Newcastle Helix not only gives companies access to essential support services but also opens a wealth of opportunities, such as access to university expertise and research but also the potential of collaboration with others on site – and it’s when companies collaborate that we will see real innovation happening, which can unlock business growth and ultimately lead to more and better jobs.”

The Biosphere has secured significant funding through the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) as part of the European Structural and Investment Funds Growth Programme 2014-2020 and the Government’s Local Growth Deal through the North East LEP. Both funds help local areas stimulate their economic development by investing in projects which will support innovation, businesses, create jobs and local community regenerations.

“Newcastle is the ideal place for a growing life science business. The city has a strong reputation for research excellence led by two outstanding universities, four national centres of excellence and one of the UK’s leading NHS trusts. Additionally, Newcastle has great local and national transport links, which are essential for our ‘direct to consumer’ testing services. The Biosphere is in the heart of a supportive, business community that actively collaborates and pulls in the same direction to achieve shared growth. Newcastle’s life sciences community is thriving, helped in no small part by the supportive infrastructure provided to growing biotechnology industries.” – Ryan Wetherell, operations manager, NorthGene

“We were actively looking for centralised laboratory space to enhance our position in the biotech space. Once the region
had committed to the build, and with the opportunity to create a bespoke space for Iksuda, our relocation to The Biosphere was never in doubt. As well as the specialist cutting-edge facilities, the eco-system at Newcastle Helix was a key driver for us. The model for clusters and scientific centres of excellence is well proven globally to enhance the success rates of biotech companies. The region has a growing biotech cluster and is well positioned to access key technical skills needed to deliver our research programmes. We are delighted to be part of the Helix community and the fast-growing life science sector here in the North East.” – Dr David Simpson, co-founder and chief executive at Iksuda Therapeutics

“As a spin-out from Newcastle University, Atelerix was keen to continue to be in Newcastle to benefit from the expertise and connections that the city and surrounding area offers. The Biosphere offers a perfect environment for us to expand our team and grow our operations in new facilities. It is excellently positioned with good access to transport links and proximity to the university. It is hoped that being in a hub with other biotech companies will be a catalyst for new ideas and opportunities.” – Dr Mick McLean, chief executive, Atelerix Ltd

The Biosphere
To find out more about The Biosphere and the innovative community on Newcastle Helix, visit www.newcastlehelix.com

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