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Jobs shake-up at Biomedica
Sixteen research jobs have gone at gene therapy company Oxford BioMedica, but its workforce has been boosted by the opening of a new drug manufacturing plant in Cowley.
BioMedica, which has its headquarters at Oxford Science Park in Littlemore, paid £1.9m last February for a building in Transport Way, Cowley, left vacant by RecipharmCobra Biologics.
Another £1.7m has been spent on recommissioning the building with cleanrooms that exclude microscopic impurities and production is now being fine-tuned for a visit this summer by the UK Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency, which must license the process before any drugs can be used on patients.
Chief executive John Dawson said: “We very much regret the redundancies, but to ensure the long-term future of the company we have had to move the culture towards manufacturing and commercialisation.
"There are some areas of long-term research which we have needed to trim back on."
He added: "Until we reach sustainable profitability, we continue to strike a balance between growing the company while also being careful with costs."
A total of 83 staff are now based at the Science Park. Two jobs went at the company's US office in San Diego and 14 in Oxford. The 25 staff in Cowley are a mixture of current long-term staff and new recruits during 2011.
Announcing half-year results and an £11m pre-tax loss, Mr Dawson said: "With tough economic conditions impacting companies and influencing sector dynamics, we have tight fiscal controls in place and remain committed to maximising the opportunities ahead.
"We also continue to review our options in terms of how best to finance the company to allow us to achieve our strategic aims."
Chairman Nick Rodgers said operationally 2011 had been a successful year, with "encouraging" results of trials of ProSavin, a potential treatment for Parkinson's Disease.
"However, we are acutely aware that it has taken longer than anticipated to secure a commercial partner to develop ProSavin," he said.
The company raised £20m from investors to fund the Cowley plant, and has enough cash to last until the first quarter of 2013.
It is banking on pharmaceutical giant Sanofi funding further clinical trials of BioMedica's gene therapy treatments for eye disease.
It is also hoping for funding for its treatment for glaucoma, being developed with the US-based Mayo Clinic.
If trials are successful, the Cowley workforce could grow as the plant is used to manufacture gene therapy products for other companies which have licensed BioMedica's pioneering Lentivector technology, developed from research at Oxford University.
Mr Dawson said the Cowley deal was "a very good purchase".
He added: "It was local and appropriate for our production needs.”