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24 Mar 2009

Grant sparks chemical reaction at North East firm

Grant investment from One North East is providing the catalyst for expansion at a regional chemical firm.

Cambridge Research Biochemicals (CRB), a custom manufacturer of peptides and antibodies for medical research, has embarked on a £100,000 project to expand its production capabilities in its Tees Valley facility.

The expansion has been made possible thanks to a £34,000 Grant for Business Investment from regional development agency One North East. The grant will help fund the purchase of a new chemical synthesiser, used in the production of peptides, which are used as research tools in drug discovery, supplied to the pharmaceutical industry and used in academic disease research.

The new investment will allow CRB, which is based on Belasis Hall Technology Park, Billingham, to purchase a state of the art peptide synthesiser machine to increase the volume of peptides manufactured each year and also provide an enhanced “peptide synthesis” service which makes hundreds of peptides simultaneously on a sub-micro scale. The company will be expanding its workforce with the recruitment of two chemists to support this activity.

One North East Director of Business and Industry, Ian Williams, said: “I am delighted we have been able to support this company, which relocated to the North East 20 years ago and has grown steadily ever since.

“CRB prides itself on working closely with its customers in developing custom products and this investment will strengthen this section of the business.”

CRB provides custom peptides and antibodies to the pharmaceutical and academic market, with their products primarily being used for discovery research stage of drug development. The company’s customers include pharmaceutical giants Pfizer, GlaxoSmithKline and AstraZeneca and others based in the pharmaceutical and biotechnology sector; however it is seeking to increase its share in the academic sector.

Emily Humphrys, CRB Commercial Director said: “We are thrilled to have been supported by One North East and are optimistic about our future growth. We aim to be the UK’s number one specialist company for research peptides and antibodies and more importantly first choice supplier.

“We are also intent on increasing our export sales that already account for 46% of our turnover.”

Cambridge Research Biochemicals (CRB) was established in 1980 in Cambridge as a peptide manufacturer and a few years later introduced the production of custom antibodies (detection tools for human diseases). In 1989, the business was acquired by ICI and relocated North to be split across ICI’s Cheshire and Teesside sites.

A management buy-out in 2000 saw the formation of the current company. Commercial Director, Emily Humphrys, and Operations Director, Alison White, own CRB, which has established itself as a provider of peptides and antibodies to the pharmaceutical, academic and biotechnology markets and their products tend to be used at the discovery stage of drug development.