USA-based biotechnology group Genzyme has opened its first European discovery research facility in Cambridge, UK, as well as a new technology and development centre at its manufacturing site in Haverhill, thereby further strengthening country’s already impressive £3 billion biotech industry.

The company has injected almost $540 million into four major expansion projects across Europe, as part of a strategy aiming to provide the group with an integrated and comprehensive presence in the territory.

The facility in Cambridge houses a new discovery research site together with a clinical research and regulatory affairs group, and is expected to employ 150 people over the next five years. Representing the firm’s first discovery research facility outside the USA, its focus will initially lie in new and emerging antibody technologies to identify novel therapeutics in cancer, renal, inflammatory and immune-mediated diseases.

Commenting on the move, Genzyme’s Chief Scientific Officer, Alan Smith, stated: “Genzyme expects to invest approximately half a billion dollars in research and development in 2005, an increase of 30% from 2004…We chose Cambridge as the site for our European research facility primarily because we have come to consider it the premier biotechnology cluster in Europe. We hope to engage with and form collaborative partnerships with both academic and biotech partners, locally and across Europe, starting with the over 200 local life sciences start-ups in and around Cambridge and with Cambridge University and its great science and clinical research. Logistically, the Cambridge site is also within easy access of the European Agency for Evaluation of Medicinal Products in London.”

In addition, the company’s $8 million investment in its manufacturing site in Haverhill will enable it to carry out process development and support clinical trials of next generation products, primarily for kidney patients.

Furthemore, Genzyme’s new bio-manufacturing site in Geel, Belgium, has been marked for the production of antibodies and proteins to treat patients with cancer and genetic diseases, and the group is opening a new $157 million fill and finish a plant for biologic medicines in Waterford, Ireland. Collectively, these operations have catapulted Genzyme into represesnting one of the largest biotechnology companies in Europe, employing over 2,000 people.