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Mayor Praises Life Sciences Firm Helping Fight Against Coronavirus

Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen has visited a leading life sciences firm to learn about its role in helping to combat the coronavirus pandemic, as well as many other diseases.

Absolute Antibody, based at Redcar’s Wilton Centre, was founded in 2012 and is an industry leader in sequencing and engineering antibodies for use by 14 of the 15 top pharmaceutical companies in the world, alongside biotechnology firms and academic researchers.

On his visit, Mayor Houchen met Chief Operating Officer Dr Catherine Bladen, who explained that during the early stages of the coronavirus pandemic, the company had been focused on producing COVID-19 antibodies for an antibody test. It also provided antibodies for 100 companies across 20 countries worldwide that were working on combating the virus during the first wave alone.

Absolute Antibody’s global reach was recently recognised with a Queen’s Award in Enterprise in International Trade, after its overseas sales increased by 100% and the proportion of sales exported grew to 81% of total sales within just a three-year period. The firm also tackled the biggest market, the US, by merging with Boston-based Kerafast to build a network of 30 distributors to customers in 62 countries.

The company also provides engineered recombinant antibodies – antibodies which make it possible to ensure experiments are reproducible – to scientists across various research areas, including immunotherapy, allergies and infectious diseases.

Mayor Houchen said: “Absolute Antibody is a shining example of how Teesside, Darlington and Hartlepool’s life sciences and biologics sector is growing in size and in reputation right across the globe.

“We have a raft of brilliant businesses not only expanding, creating good-quality, well-paid jobs, but also leading the march to battle existing diseases and responding quickly and upping their game when new ones, like coronavirus, emerge.

“The world-leading work of Absolute Antibody and it’s amazing scientists shows that if you want a rewarding career at the cutting edge of science you don’t have to move to Oxford, Cambridge or London, companies like the one Dr Bladen has built are at the forefront of global efforts to tackle some of the worst diseases and they are doing it right here in Teesside. The company’s work has rightly been recognised with a Queen’s Award as its worldwide presence continues to rise and its ambitions are exciting to see.

“It was fantastic to visit Absolute Antibody and learn about the vital work it’s doing to help protect the health of people around the world. I wish them every success as it continues to expand and its expertise plays a key part in driving our economy.”

Dr Bladen said: “We were delighted to host Mayor Houchen, tell him all about our Queen’s Award and also how we proved ourselves a small but valuable part of the incredible scientific response to Covid-19.

“We are scientists, our customers are scientists, and science is a global effort. We want to keep looking outward, innovating and improving to stay competitive and push further than ever before in antibody engineering.

“Our desire is for the region to become a major hub for biologic businesses and research, and we can see that beginning to happen. We’re committed to working with our partners in the Tees Valley to achieve this, as well as helping to put this area on the global stage, bringing in talent from all over the world to make this a reality.”