WORK officially starts today (Wednesday, April 16) on a £38m North-East medical research plant.

The National Biologics Manufacturing Centre, in Darlington, will develop life-saving cures, putting the region at the forefront of breakthrough treatments.

Bosses are due to carry out a ground breaking ceremony on the site, which will be completed next year and is expected to create an initial 40 jobs.

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The Centre for Process Innovation (CPI), in Wilton, near Redcar, are managing the centre.

A specialist team of scientists and engineers will help companies develop and prototype medical innovations for treatments, including cancer, hereditary diseases and hormonal deficiencies.

It will be the will be the first of its kind in the UK and aims to strengthen the country's life-science sector.

Dr Chris Dowle, CPI’s director of biologics, said the move represented a major coup for the region.

He added: “We are delighted to herald this ground-breaking as we work with industry and academia to deliver new innovation and enhance the UK's biologic economy's competitiveness.”

Also known as biopharmaceuticals, biologics are medicines with biological foundations, usually involving live organisms such as cells, bacteria and yeast.

More than a fifth of all new medicines are derived from biotechnology.

David Willetts, Universities and Science minister, said the centre proved the Government was committed to make the UK a leader in life sciences.

He said: “This new centre sends a clear message to the world that we are creating the best environment to invent and make biologic medicines.

“We want the UK to remain a location of choice for investment in an increasingly competitive and globalised health life-sciences sector.

“Life-sciences is one of the most truly international sectors, so if we are to continue to be a world player, we must do everything we can to support it.”

The centre will be among the first private-sector businesses at Darlington's Central Park regeneration project.

Tees Valley Unlimited local enterprise partnership (TVU) worked to secure the centre contract with partners including Darlington Borough Council.

Sandy Anderson, OBE, TVU chairman, said: “This project is an excellent example of what can be achieved through genuine partnership.”