Therapies developed by biotech giant Ipsen are licensed in more than 115 countries worldwide. Wrexham is home to the company’s Biologics Centre of Excellence, which houses state-of-the art manufacturing and development facilities.
From its laboratories on the eastern fringe of Wrexham, biotech firm Ipsen is making life better for people across the globe. Research, design, production and shipping are all based at the site, which has been boosting the local economy and Wales’s burgeoning life sciences industry since 1994.
“Over recent years, we’ve been growing at a significant pace,” says Nick Davis, VP for manufacturing,“and the neuroscience therapeutic products we make here have been growing in the marketplace as well. As a result, we’ve needed to invest heavily in the Wrexham site.”
It’s an ongoing process. Following £100m in investment over recent years, Ipsen is engaged in a further development project, dedicating £22m to this key strategic location. Davis says: “We’re very proud to be part of the business community here. North Wales has good transportation links, close proximity to academic centres, access to high-skilled talent here and in north-west England. It also has top hospitals and patient advocacy groups – all important to us as a pharmaceutical company.
“As one of the largest employers in North Wales, we have strong links with the Welsh Government, directly and through the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry in Cardiff. The Welsh Government supports innovation, and for a business like ours that strives to be innovative, it works very well.”
Wrexham’s growing reputation in the lifesciences sector helps to attract the skilled pharmaceutical and support workers that Ipsen relies upon. “In the last two years, we’ve increased our head count by as many as 120,” says Davis. “A large population of employees come from within a 15-mile radius, though some of our higher-skilled, scientific folk come in from slightly further afield. We’ve done a lot to raise our profile in the area and across the UK. As a result, people are coming to us, rather than our having to reach out.”
Ipsen’s commitment to the region is underlined by its efforts with local education institutions to develop a workforce for the future. “We’re very active in the Welsh arm of the UK STEM program, and a number of our employees are STEM ambassadors,” says Davis. They visit secondary schools, and pupils are invited on site to learn more. We’re trying to engage with potential future employees at a very early stage in their education.”
As well as its links with Welsh institutions – including a tie-in with Cardiff University to accredit courses delivered at Ipsen’s on-site training academy – the company has strong links with colleges in the north-west of England. “We also work with Wrexham’s education institutes to source apprentices,” adds Davis. “And we’re sponsoring PhD students in a number of universities, in the hope that it brings talent to us in the future.”
A deep well of talent will be vital for North Wales’s rapidly expanding life sciences sector, which currently has a turnover of £2billion and employs 11,000 people in over 350 companies. “We’re very happy to see the growth of other innovative businesses here,” says Davis. “They can be a catalyst for further innovation, working in collaboration. What’s happening across the Pond in Cambridge, Massachusetts, is a great example of how multiple companies can live close to each other and benefit as a result.”
As for Ipsen, it’s going nowhere – in the best possible way. “Our investment demonstrates a huge commitment to what Wrexham has to offer,” says Davis. “We have exciting growth ahead as a business, both in current production, and also in a pipeline of innovative neuroscience therapeutic products that we’re developing through this facility. The intention is to continue to expand this site, continue to invest, and bring those new products through the Wrexham facility to the patients who need them.”