Eisai has opened its £100 million European headquarters in the UK, which the firm says will provide an important base for the firm as its expansion outside Japan continues.

The company’s 'European Knowledge Centre' in Hatfield, Hertfordshire, has brought more than 500 jobs to the area, Eisai said, which includes about 250 newly-created research posts. The EKC represents the Tokyo-headquartered group’s first manufacturing facility in Europe, while its discovery research and clinical development teams are also based on the same site, as are its UK sales and marketing operations.

Speaking at the opening of the EKC, Eisai chief executive Haruo Naito said that integrating all the company’s functions on a single site “will both encourage the creation of knowledge and improvements in our quality, efficiency and productivity”. He added that the facility “will not only act as a hub for managing our current business across Europe but it will play an important role in supporting our operations in driving further growth” in the continent, “one of our key investment markets."

Mr Naito told PharmaTimes World News that the facility will play a key part in the company’s plans to expand its Aricept (donepezil) franchise for Alzheimer’s disease. This includes developing sustained-release and transdermal patch formulations.

The event was also attended by the best-selling author Sir Terry Prachett, who suffers from early-stage Alzheimer's. He said that “the next two decades will see a tsunami of Alzheimer's sufferers, all desperately hoping for a treatment which will allow them to live more easily with the condition”.

Sir Terry went on to say that “we need to speed up research and, incidentally, the speed in which successful discoveries get to patients”. He added that the opening of the new research facility at the EKC “as another step towards making these goals a reality for me and many hundreds of thousands of others”.

Ivan Lewis, a former health minister who moved to the Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs office in the recent Cabinet reshuffle said that “it is a very positive move both for the company and for this country”. The government “has put the pharmaceutical industry at the heart of its economic agenda, and we are delighted to see this level of investment being made by Eisai”, he added.