THE North-East will become a European leader in medical innovation in a £20m move hailed as historic by Prime Minister David Cameron.

A pioneering research centre, which will be the first of its type in Europe, is being built in Darlington.

Bosses say the Centre for Process Innovation (CPI) factory will revolutionise the healthcare sector, testing and making technology to deliver diverse medicines for specific diseases and patient cases.

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The building will support up to 100 construction jobs and create 20 highly-skilled roles when it opens in 2017.

However, The Northern Echo understands further posts could come to the town if the lab attracts collaborative work and spin-out companies.

Mr Cameron said: “This historic deal means real change for the North-East.

“It shows the region has plans to attract new business to the area, drive innovation and invest in key sectors, such as advanced manufacturing.”

The project is funded with £10m from Tees Valley Unlimited local enterprise partnership (TVU) as part of the Government’s local growth fund.

It will sit alongside, and work with, the CPI’s £38m National Biologics Manufacturing Centre, in Darlington’s Central Park, which will open in 2015 to research and develop potentially life-saving cures and vaccines.

The £20m announcement comes as part of a £379m Government investment through its flagship local growth fund, which aims to create jobs and increase economic growth.

A CPI report said the supply chain remains shackled by large-scale production unable to deliver frequent and different medicine ranges, which the new building will accomodate.

It said: "The provision of medicines to patients is undergoing a radical change from one size fits all medicines to a personalised approach.

“This will have a significant impact on the established supply chain, which is currently configured to large batches of a single therapy to treat multiple patients with the same disease.”

Dr Chris Dowle, CPI director of biologics, said the factory will play a key role in keeping the UK at the forefront of medical research.

He said: “Any new industry changes rapidly in the early stages of its growth.

“If the UK is to lead and exploit the significant advances from the investment in biologics research made already, it will need to continue to develop manufacturing.

“This will create value and bring long-term benefits to the Tees Valley through high-value jobs in a high growth industry.”

Earlier this week, The Northern Echo revealed how £7.4m from the Government local growth fund had been made to the CPI to develop a £14m innovation hub focusing on new ways of making complex formulated products in household goods, such as cosmetic creams and gels, before they go to market.

Based at NetPark, in Sedgefield, County Durham, it will create an initial 20 jobs, and potentially up to 100 posts, operating as the only one of its kind on the UK.

It is expected to be used by firms including GlaxoSmithKline, AkzoNobel and Proctor and Gamble.

The CPI’s £38m Darlington centre, part of the Central Park development, was awarded to the town by the Government after strong competition, with bosses saying it will help the North-East become a world leader in biologic treatments.

Scientists and engineers will work to develop prototype medications that have biological foundations, such as cells, bacteria and yeast.

Biotechnology is seen as the future of all medicines and already a fifth of new medicines are derived from biologics.