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Commercial lab space at the Newcastle Helix innovation district reaches full capacity.

6 July 2022

A city centre building tailored to the commercialisation of life sciences has reached full capacity. The Biosphere opened its doors just three years ago, and is now home to more than 20 businesses, forming a vibrant and innovative life science cluster on Newcastle Helix.

This fit-for-purpose laboratory and office building is dedicated to life science research, development, and commercialisation. It has become a global hub for innovation, with businesses who are based there working on solutions for some of society’s most pressing global challenges, such as COVID-19, cancer, and climate change.

Iksuda Therapeutics were one of the first companies to move in, leading the way in creating the next generation of Antibody Drug Conjugates (ADCs) for the treatment of difficult to treat tumours including ovarian, lung and breast cancers. As well as offices in Boston, USA, the bespoke UK headquarters at The Biosphere were chosen because of the cutting-edge facilities, the eco-system on Newcastle Helix and the regions ability to access the technical skills they needed to deliver their research programmes.  

As well as Iksuda Therapeutics, other businesses based in The Biosphere include AMLo Biosciences, CellRev, Atelerix, LightOx and Newcells Biotech. They have all raised a combined total of more than £50 million of investment over the last 18 months to expand their operations, testament to their ability to compete on a global stage.

During the pandemic, the city’s life science strengths shone through, with some of the best talent and minds coming together to support the global effort against COVID-19. During this time, the North East Innovation Lab, part of Newcastle Hospitals, moved into The Biosphere, to support and accelerate the development of the next generation of diagnostics, building on the Trust’s international reputation for research and innovation. The lab’s work has expanded from COVID-19 to include cancer, sepsis, flu and tropical disease and from the Biosphere it has developed a global reach engaging potential clients from Australia to the USA and working with start-ups and international companies.

Several businesses already based in The Biosphere also used their existing research and expertise to fast-track the development of research, innovations, and ideas borne out of the pandemic, after winning a share of InnovateUK’s, £40 million investment.

The Biosphere has provided the infrastructure that was needed for the life science sector to grow. Businesses benefit from being surrounded by the North East’s rapidly growing £1.7bn life science eco-system, including world-leading universities and outstanding NHS Trust. They also benefit from being located on Newcastle Helix, co-located with like-minded businesses and assets such as the National Innovation Centre for Ageing, National Innovation Centre for Data, the Centre for Process and Innovation (CPI) and Newcastle University, with several businesses in the building being University spin-outs and start-ups themselves.

Job creation and future investment

Investment into The Biosphere was part of Newcastle City Council’s commitment to the growth of the sector. Since 2020, more than 100 jobs have been created.  

Councillor Alex Hay, Cabinet Member for a Resilient City at Newcastle City Council said:

 “This project has created much needed jobs, is supporting graduate retention and has helped to secure Newcastle’s position as a leader in life sciences and innovation.

 “Our city is a place to innovate, grow and improve lives. We are not only proud of business growth, demand, and the highly skilled jobs this building has created, but the cluster of talent that is helping people across the world live healthier lives for years to come.

 “Due to the success of The Biosphere a private investor is currently being sought to facilitate further growth within life sciences."

 Due to the success of The Biosphere a private investor is currently being sought to facilitate further growth within life sciences.

 Becky Crow, Senior Inward Investment Manager for Life Sciences at NewcastleGateshead Initiative (NGI) said:

 “The UK’s Life Science sector is growing at pace and there is a strong pipeline of businesses wanting to expand and locate themselves in our city. This demand means securing a private sector investment will be critical to the sector’s future. We all share the same ambition, to accelerate innovation, catalyse growth and to continue to position Newcastle as internationally renowned cluster.

 “The Biosphere is a hub for high growth forward thinking SMEs who are at the forefront of global innovation, leveraging research and development and support from our world-leading universities and outstanding NHS Trust. Newcastle offers health professionals and investors the opportunity to live a balanced life and to build a career in global scientific innovation and invention. It’s such an exciting time for the sector and we look forward to the next stage of The Biosphere journey.”

 Luke Dunnett, Property Business Manager at The Biosphere, added:

“Our building is full to the brim of talent, and I couldn’t be prouder of its success and the businesses that call it home. We are a place where life sciences organisations can thrive, grow, and make an impact. The innovation, world leading research and commercialisation of new ideas will benefit our region for years to come.”  

 The Biosphere 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.