A biopharmaceutical company working to develop cancer treatments is flourishing after moving from Cambridge to Discovery Park in Sandwich.
Agalimmune was established in 2013 to study a new anti-cancer technology, discovered in the United States, to target and destroy cancer cells using the patient’s own immune system.
The business initially set up in a laboratory at Granta Park, Cambridge, which was leased by its parent company, Loxbridge Research; however they found that the location was holding back their development.
Chief Executive of Agalimmune, Mike Westby, said: “Granta Park is in what people in the science and technology industries like to call the ‘Golden Triangle’ of London, Cambridge and Oxford, so it seemed a really good place to locate.
The company found that whilst the facilities there were great, they weren’t getting the opportunity to network with other companies and scientists to share ideas and help develop their own projects forward.
Mr Westby continued: “As a small company we were looking for a place with competitive rates, a place with a skilled workforce or potential workforce that we could identify and recruit.
“What we saw at Discovery Park was not only people trained to work in this space who we could access, but also a lot of adjacent companies who had the skills and facilities we could work with in order to establish the business.
“So for us, Discovery Park came by far to be the best location to do our business and we worked together with the site management team to build a proposal for a new laboratory that went to the Expansion East Kent Regional Growth Fund in East Kent.
Agalimmune moved to Sandwich in 2014 after their loan application was approved. They used the money to prepare the laboratory and buy the necessary equipment needed to start work.
Within three months of moving, Mr Westby confirms that they made the equivalent of one year’s progress of what was happening in Cambridge, developing an idea into a chemical candidate, which they are then able to prepare for clinical testing that will hopefully take place in the second quarter of 2016.
Agalimmune has 2,500 square feet of office space and laboratory space where six full time staff carry out testing to examine what effect its chemical ‘molecule’ has on cancer cells. The company also brings in extra staff where needed, using the skills and facilities of other tenants at the science park.
Prior to working for Agalimmune, Mike was part of the research management team at Pfizer in Sandwich before the global company decided to scale back its work at the site. He worked alongside a team of scientists in discovering and developing a new HIV medicine called Maraviroc and was among the last scientists to leave.
He said: “The site really had the feel of a place that was preparing to be levelled and knocked down, so when I came back to consider it as a place to set up a laboratory it was, to be honest, to cross it off the list.
“So it was shocking, but in a really good way that in such a short time the new owners had transformed the site from one that really felt like it was heading for the annals of history of Research and Development to a vibrant business site.
“That vibrancy is what struck me when I returned. The fact that there are all sorts of businesses on site, such as legal teams, patent attorneys, media companies, right through to start- ups and CROs, is an absolutely fantastic testament to what the owners have managed to do.
Mike continues to say that it is critical for Discovery Park to be seen as a centre of excellence for life sciences and that the sector needs to move away from the thought that R&D, particularly in bio-technology, is only identified by the so-called ‘golden triangle’ of Oxford, Cambridge and London.
He visualises the future using a cycling analogy whereby London is the centre of the wheel; the hub where people come to do business. Discovery Park in Kent, Manchester, Cambridge and Oxford are then the spokes of the wheel, which serve as centres of excellence doing all the key components of research.
He concludes by saying; “The fact that the first thing you see when you step off the high speed one rail link from Discovery Park into St Pancras is the Crick Institute ought to be great testament to the fact that here is a real potential contributor to the UK economy.”
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