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Plan to create 250 Liverpool science jobs

Liverpool is at the centre of a bid to establish a GBP39m centre of excellence that will conduct early stage research into new drugs to treat cancer and other serious illnesses.

If the project goes ahead it will create some 250 science jobs in the city over the next five years.

RedX Pharma Ltd, which is based in Liverpool, today announced that it has applied for a GBP5.9m grant from the Government’s Regional Growth Fund for an initial two-year research phase.

The public sector support for the proposed project would pave the way for substantial backing from RedX Pharma, its shareholders and investors, totaling some GBP33.2m over five years.

If the funding bid is successful, the new centre will be operational from early 2012 and create some 127 science jobs in the first two years –at a state-of-the-art chemistry, biochemistry and analytical testing resource.

It’s anticipated that a further 119 science posts will be generated as the centre develops between 2014 and 2016. This figure includes a provision for 24 trainees/apprentices in each of the five years of the project.

Activities would be based around RedX Pharma’s existing pipeline of 40 research drug libraries in a wide variety of cancer types, and designed to deliver a flow of experimental drugs for progression into human clinical trials.

The project is supported by Liverpool City Council (Liverpool Vision), Liverpool University, Royal Liverpool University Hospital and the Liverpool Cancer Research UK Centre.  

It will take advantage of the local knowledge base and new biopharmaceutical laboratory infrastructure being created separately in central Liverpool at both Liverpool Science Park and the proposed Bio Campus which is part of the redevelopment of Royal Liverpool Hospital  

Dr Neil Murray, chief executive of RedX Pharma, says:  “We share a vision with the city that life science has a major role to play in the development of Liverpool’s future and we believe that our centre of excellence will create the critical mass necessary to create a step change in that strategy.

“The expansion we are proposing and the prospects for Liverpool need to be set in a global context.  There is a clear trend for big players in the pharma market simply licensing or buying promising early stage development programmes from smaller, more nimble and innovative biotech companies, rather than trying to discover drugs themselves. This approach is reducing risk, lowering costs, and increasing returns.”

Max Steinberg, chief executive of Liverpool Vision, the city’s economic development company, commented: “With the development of the Royal Liverpool University Hospital and associated cluster of businesses, our city has the potential to become a world leader in bio sciences.   The expansion of RedX would in itself be a powerful statement of intent in respect of the city’s ambitions in this field.

“In addition to the pure economic and employment benefits, the project will help to ensure that a more effective supply of anti-cancer drugs will be brought to market much more quickly because of the drive and expertise of a UK based company.”

The UK pharmaceutical industry has shed over 4,000 science posts in the last two years as major players in the market have closed or consolidated in-house research facilities.  

The retrenchment elsewhere has included 400 posts lost at Novartis in Horsham, West Sussex, and Pfizer closing its research and development facility at Sandwich, Kent, which employed 2,400 people. Some 1,200 science posts are also going at the AstraZeneca site in Charnwood, Leicestershire.

RedX Pharma was launched last year with public and private sector backing from a number of investors, including Jon Moulton, the venture capitalist behind Better Capital.

From a base at the MerseyBIO facility in Crown Street, RedX develops therapeutic remedies based on existing classes of drugs, structurally modifying them to create new proprietary medicines. Benefits for patients will include fewer side effects, greater efficacy and ease of use for people.

Redx has a broad-based pipeline of new compounds in multiple therapeutic areas. The company is currently progressing programs in the areas of cardiovascular medicine, influenza, antibiotics and neuropathic pain. It achieves revenues by entering into licensing agreements with mid-sized and large pharmaceutical partners for promising new drug compounds.

The company’s Redox Switch platform technology allows rapid assessment of new drug candidates, which can go forward to development programmes with lower risk and greater speed to clinical trials.

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