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Investment and innovation – Northumberland’s pharma landscape continues to evolve

Investment and innovation – Northumberland’s pharma landscape continues to evolve

From its association with the Harry Potter films, to its stunning gardens and boutique shops, Alnwick has much to offer visitors to Northumberland. It’s undoubtedly one of the North East’s tourism hotspots.  

But the picturesque market town is also home to a major centre for pharma expertise and capability. A place that is attracting skills and investment to this part of Northumberland and is providing more and better jobs for people in North East England.

For on the outskirts of Alnwick, drug development and manufacturing accelerator Quotient Sciences Ltd runs one of its four UK operations, employing 170 people across an extensive site.

It is just one part of a vibrant landscape of pharma and biotech companies in Northumberland.

From API (active pharmaceutical ingredient) development and manufacture to product development, Hormone Replacement Therapy treatments to solid dose formulation and packaging, the area is making a major contribution to the UK’s life sciences sector… and has done for many years.

Quotient Sciences’ Alnwick site has a decades-long track record as a pharmaceuticals and biotech hub, with Sanofi and then Covance operating from the town from the 1980s to the 2010s.

The site was acquired by Contract Development and Manufacturing Organisation Arcinova in 2016 and substantial investment and recruitment followed, with the business serving more than 200 pharma and biotech companies worldwide with drug substance manufacture, isotope labelling, bioanalysis and drug product development.

Fast forward to February 2021, and we saw Arcinova acquired by Nottingham-headquartered Quotient Sciences.

And it’s fantastic to see that investment in the site has continued.

Last year, Quotient Sciences announced a £6.3 million-pound investment in the Alnwick facility, to expand its drug substance manufacturing capability. This will create 80 new jobs over the next three years and is a major vote of confidence in its Northumberland operations.

Exploring Northumberland’s vibrant pharma sector…

Just down the A1 from Quotient Sciences’ Alnwick site is the Morpeth home of Piramal Healthcare UK Ltd, part of Piramal Pharma Solutions, which has operations across North America, Europe and Asia. Its capabilities include API manufacturing, the development of oral contraceptive pills and hormone replacement therapies and clinical trial supply. Piramal Healthcare UK Ltd also as an oral solids manufacturing capability of up to 3 billion tablets.

And the market town is also known as the UK site of Pharma Nord, one of Europe’s largest manufacturers of preventive dietary supplements and herbal remedies. Its  Bio-Vitamin D3 product was even part of recent research designed to look at the effects of vitamin D supplementation on the immune system and protecting against the coronavirus.

In Cramlington, you’ll find Aesica Pharmaceuticals, a long-established manufacturer of Active APIs, which was acquired in January of this year by Pharmaron – a business with operations in China, the US and UK.

Its chairman and CEO, Boliang Lou, said last month that Pharmaron was “committed to expanding the Cramlington site to meet growing demand”.

The town is also home to a facility owned by US-headquartered multinational Merck & Co., Inc.

Pharmaceutical manufacturing started on the site in 1975 and it is regarded as a global centre for stability testing. Since 2021, the facility – which employs around 400 people – has been part of Merck & Co., Inc.’s Organon spin-off company, which focuses on women’s health.

And Thermo Fisher Scientific has a substantial presence in Cramlington too.

The global company’s site on North Nelson Industrial Estate specialises in single-use equipment for the pharmaceutical industry, including single-use bioreactors and fermenters.

In more great news for South East Northumberland, last year Thermo Fisher Scientific announced that it planned to increase capacity at Cramlington.

Taking the A69 to the west of the county and you’ll find enzyme discovery and manufacturing company Prozomix: last November, it was announced that Prozomix was part of a collaboration with The University of Manchester and Sterling Pharma Solutions to develop a low-cost manufacturing route to Molnupiravir, a promising antiviral drug for the treatment of COVID-19, in order to widen access of the medicine to lower-income countries.

These are undoubtedly exciting times for the pharma and biotech sector in Northumberland.

And all of the organisations mentioned here contribute to a wider North East life sciences and healthcare ecosystem.

The region is home to 200 life science and healthcare companies that generate a combined turnover of £10.5 billion and contribute 33% of the UK’s pharmaceutical GDP.

So why Northumberland?

It’s not by accident that we are seeing continued investment in Northumberland by some of the largest players in global pharma.

And the county offers a ready-made package for pharma and biotech companies who wish to develop their capabilities and capacities further, and onshore their operations to reduce risks to their supply chains in the wake of the Coronavirus pandemic.

On the doorstep of the county are five universities – Newcastle University, Northumbria University, Durham University, The University of Sunderland and Teesside University – which offer a rich source of expertise, collaboration and research facilities for Northumberland’s pharmaceutical sector. And they also allow companies located in the area to tap into a well of graduate talent.

This is coupled with excellent transport links.

Towns such as Alnwick, Morpeth and Cramlington are well connected to the rest of the UK via the A1 and A19, and rail links via Newcastle Central Station, and are within a short drive of Newcastle International Airport and the Port of Blyth.

The sector is underpinned by impressive support networks too, such as the North East of England Process Industry Cluster (NEPIC) and Bionow.

And for companies who wish to locate in Northumberland – or expand their existing presence in the county – we can offer a wealth of development sites.

These include: Ashwood Business Park in Ashington, a 25HA site which has Enterprise Zone status, meaning businesses can benefit from Enhanced Capital Allowances on plant and machinery; West Hartford Business Park, a 52 HA site nine miles North of Newcastle city centre; and a number of industrial estates in the Cramlington area.

Taken as a whole, Northumberland’s advantages make it a prime location for growing pharma organisations, whether they want to bolster their UK and European supply chains, increase capacity, branch out or start up.

Want to be part of Northumberland’s pharma sector? Visit

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