The North East has a world leading reputation in fields of life science and pharmaceuticals; however, the sector's focus has shifted away from its manufacturing roots towards more innovation focussed businesses.
The region’s traditional strength has been in the field of pharmaceutical manufacturing and product development. We have an enviable cluster of world class pharmaceutical manufacturers on our doorstep including Glaxo Smith Kline, MSD and Piramal Healthcare.
The life science and pharmaceuticals sectors are one of our biggest success stories employing 38,000 people and contributing £10.5bn to the regional economy. The North East is an export driven region and pharmaceutical manufacturing plays an important role in our global exports story, with 86% of their products exported for global use. In recent years the sector has undergone a structural realignment, moving away from manufacturing to a greater emphasis on innovative product development. This trend is vitally important at a time when the region is considering its post Brexit economic future.
Our region has a great deal to boast about in the field of life science innovation. Newcastle is host to the International Centre for Life, a world leading centre for genetics and stem cell technology, and Newcastle University’s renowned Institute for Ageing. We also have important business incubation facilities such as NET Park in County Durham and Newcastle’s Helix that are crucial to driving future growth through research and development activity. The North East has a wealth of businesses that are at the cutting edge of innovation in the pharmaceutical and life science sectors.
Newcastle-based Newcells Biotech’s are doing pioneering work that focusses on developing models of human tissues and organs using stem cell technology to assess the safety and effectiveness of drugs and disease modelling. This is increasingly important as the industry looks to improve their ability to predict which early stage drugs will be successful in human trials, minimising the use of animal testing.
Newcells have grown rapidly in recent years from a Newcastle University spinout company to a thriving business operating in global export markets. Their primary customers are in drug discovery and development teams in pharmaceutical and biotech companies worldwide. This provides a striking illustration of how the region’s combination of scientific excellence and entrepreneurial talent can create truly innovative businesses.
The rise of technology-based innovations are also transforming the way medical information is communicated between patients and clinicians. An exciting example of this is the mi-SOS personal digital identity band in development by Northumberland based Mavin Informatics. It uses QR code-based wearable technology to enable first responders and the emergency services to access vital personal information in time of crisis using a mobile phone device. mi-SOS is the brainchild of clinical pharmacist Dr Dawn Price and aims to benefit vulnerable people through an inspired use of digital technology.
This life saving innovation has the potential to revolutionise communication between patients and the emergency services, building on the North East’s recognised strengths in the fields of digital health and personalised healthcare.
These examples are just a flavour of the dynamic businesses the region has to offer. Our excellence in life science and healthcare innovation is one of our core strengths as a region that we must continue to nurture to unlock future growth and job creation. In a post Brexit Britain where the UK’s future trading relationship with the EU remains uncertain, adopting more innovative business practices will be crucial to keeping the sector globally competitive. We must ensure the North East’s pharmaceutical and life sciences sectors remain at the heart of a new global Britain.