Bringing Science back to the Science Park

The Agenda 1 Blog is now on twitter @Agenda1

In June 2006 an era ended, not many noticed, but it was life changing for those involved. A company that had once employed 60 people on the Listerhills Science Park, Bradford closed.

That business, Nektar Therapeutics UK Ltd, had been at the forefront of developing a new technology, and had state of the art manufacturing capabilities, including a “clean room” for drug product manufacture.I still remember the frustration I felt as £1m pounds worth of investment was ripped out to meet the landlords (quite correct) requirements to return the premises to their original condition. A necessary step – but a great loss to the Bradford Area in terms of capabilities – the next such facility is probably 50 miles away.

So, 60 science jobs lost, facilities removed, and empty offices – a discouraging sight in  September 2006 when Agenda 1 opened for business – using some of the remaining facilities of Nektar as our base.

Since then we’ve been working away trying to bring Science back to the science park. Actually, we’ve been working away to develop a business, a side effect has been to bring the science back!  Recently articles appeared in the Yorkshire Post & Bradford Telegraph & Argus as testimonies of our success.

We started in 2 units, and now have 4, not quite the 10 that Nektar had, but getting there, we’re also about 30% of the way there as far as people numbers are concerned, and in total we’ve invested around £500,000 in new equipment and additional people to set up and run that equipment – so a scientific phoenix is arising from the ashes.

Of more importance than the equipment, is the range of applications we’ve been involved in. With nearly 100 clients coming through the doors since we started we’ve met far more varied challenges than we ever expected, looking through our archives I see:

Work involving “Green Solvents”, where we demonstrated that micro-organisms living in soil “polluted” with these solvents not only were unharmed, but seemed to thrive on it!

Have become experts in everything related to the analysis of Bone Substitute material – the most regularly employed surgical product in the world – which we knew nothing about 5 years ago.

Developed a method to measure the surface area of the aluminium flakes that make silver paint “silver”.

Helped a flour mill resolve and argument with a supplier over the effectiveness of their milling equipment

Measured the size of particles of material suspended in river water, to test the effectiveness of a pumps filtering system

Developed a way to test if a wound gel used by surgeons really did act as a microbial barrier.

And  many more! In looking at that list I see that our vision and expectation that we would become a pharmaceutical testing laboratory hardly gets a look in here. In that list I’ve even forgotten that we’ve also developed a world leading solubilisation screen now used by companies from around the world as a first step in developing new drug products!

So we might not quite have got the sheer science scale back to where it was in 2006, but now I reflect on it, I think we can honestly say, we have brought the science back to the science park…now about those other 6 units!