A NEW generation of world wonderdrugs are to be pioneered in Ulverston at a £350 million new factory which could have gone anywhere in the UK, Glaxo bosses have revealed.
The state-of-the-art GSK plant will involve new ‘biopharmaceutical’ techniques being used which can revolutionise treatment of debilitating and life-limiting conditions.
The current plant mainly deals with injectable antibiotics used in hospitals and oral antibiotics used in the home - exporting to over 100 countries.
Its new plant - the first in the UK for over 40 years - will specialise in water-based high value therapies treating a diverse range of diseases including cancer.
Some biopharm medicines can involve a patient switching from a disrupting two three injections a day to just one a week, as the medicines change how an illness is treated and administered.
An estimated 250 high value jobs will follow over around six or seven years - doubling the existing plant’s workforce. The new site could be open by 2021.
New plant boss Pat McIver, has lived locally and worked at Glaxo for over 25 years and said staff were still ‘buzzing’ about the decision.
Recalling how staff ‘cheered’ the arrival of its Chief Executive Officer, Sir Andrew Whitty who made the announcement, Mr McIver said: “It’s fair to say that over the years, Ulverston and Glaxo have gone through good times and not so good times and the decision GSK have made, could have gone anywhere in the UK."
It's all a far cry from 1999, when there were grave fears the company would withdraw from the UK altogether - quitting Ulverston where it has been for 68 years.
“It’s absolutely massive for Ulverston," said Mr McIver. "I always believe we had something special here and I was really confident in our bid. What I’m really pleased about is the contribution this will make to the local economy.”
One reason the company is investing in Ulverston and the UK is because new patent legislation recognising the value of UK intellectual property gives corporation tax breaks.
Plans for the factory continue to be shown to the public and a special liaision group has been established so that neighbouring residents with any concerns can discuss them directly with the company.
A new wastewater treatment facility will be needed to treat everything discharged from the site, said project architect Jordaan Kemp, of PM Group, who stressed that it would be a 'very safe' plant with 90 per cent of the products water-based.
A formal planning application is expected to go to South Lakeland District Council in March and it is expected the site would open in around 2021 - largely because of the need for its processes and products to be approved by drug authorities in dozens of overseas countries.
Rob Johnston, of Cumbria Chamber of Commerce, was at the public unveiling at the Coronation Hall.
He said: “There are two advantages to this. One is that it makes Cumbria very investable - it’s not a long way from civilisation as some people think, infact we have very good connections to the M6 and Ulverston is a tremendous place to live.
“The other is the message that it sends out to other global businesses and investors. This is a global investment - there’s a future here beyong the current generation.”
And Stuart Klosinski of Furness Enterprise said: “This is the biggest thing to happen to Ulverston for many years - Siemens was the last in 2008 and that was £16 million. It’s part of a much wider investment going on in Furness and West Cumbria which is probably going to amount to about £30 billion over the longer term.”
Coun Judith Pickthall, Mayor of Ulverston, said: “It’s so amazing that people can feel confident about their jobs - this is not a fly-by-night investment.”
There are further opportunities to see the plans at GSK Sports & Social Club, North Lonsdale Road, Ulverston, on Wednesday February 26 from 5pm - 8pm Saturday, or March 1 from 12pm - 4pm