Andrew Smith, MP for Oxford East, officially ‘cut the ribbon’ to open global biotechnology group Genzyme’s expanded facilities at the Oxford Business Park this week.

According to the group, the new facilities reflect the continued growth of Genzyme in the UK, where it sells products for the management of chronically debilitating diseases such as genetic disorders, renal disease and thyroid cancer.

Genzyme first arrived in Oxford back in 2001 with 15 employees, a figure which has since grown to 80 and is expected to overshoot the 100 mark next year, illustrating the group’s continued confidence in the area.

Explaining the choice of location, Steven Bates told PharmaTimes: “Oxford was chosen as Genzyme's commercial headquarters for its central location and also because, as one of the leading bioscience clusters in the UK, there are high calibre people there and the opportunity to be involved with top-level academic and medical networks.”

And when asked whether he thought the R&D environment in the UK was still favourable, he replied: “Very much so. Genzyme's first dedicated research facility outside the US was established in Cambridge in 2005, and Genzyme has continues to invest in R&D in the UK focussing particularly on antibody discovery and development. Cambridge was chosen on the basis of its infrastructure, links with academia and scientific talent.”

Strong UK presence

The company also has a major pharmaceutical manufacturing operation at Haverhill on the Cambridgeshire/Suffolk border, and a Diagnostics division in Kent, which is responsible for developing, manufacturing and marketing Genzyme's range of diagnostic products.

In the UK as a whole, the group employs more than 500 people, “making us a significant presence in the country's biotechnology industry and an important provider of medicines that make a real difference to patients’ lives,” explained Paul Drohan, Vice President and General Manager of Genzyme UK & Ireland.