THE road to GlaxoSmithKline is littered with fallen leaves.

The trees are in survival mode, preparing for the impending winter weather and their spring re-awakening.

GlaxoSmithKline’s sprawling site is not without the same autumnal feel.

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Its bold orange branding, vividly displayed in corridors and conference rooms, is a visual reminder of the leaves that hang limply from branches outside.

However, the company is far from easing down for the long, cold months that lie ahead.

Walking around its base, in Barnard Castle, County Durham, the feeling is one of vibrancy, of growth and expansion.

Scaffolding shrouds one of its huge buildings, while a section of the plant’s frontage is shielded by white boards as workmen begin another project.

Around a corner, the engine notes of yellow excavators and a green dumper truck rise and fall as they prepare an area for expansion.

It’s this bare patch of land, once the site where the company’s first factory, built more than 70 years ago to make penicillin, will house next generation work.

Earlier this year, GlaxoSmithKline revealed plans to spend more than £90m on what it calls an aseptic manufacturing facility, which will supply injectable liquids for things like HIV, respiratory and autoimmune diseases.

Consultations have been held locally and planning permission is still required, but bosses are confident the building will be approved so work can begin in 2020.

The expansion would mark yet another chapter in the history of the land GlaxoSmithKline calls home, which was once used as a saw mill and now provides employment for well in excess of 1,000 people.

Sitting in a conference room, as noise of building work filters through the windows, Alastair Leighton, site director, says the business’ growth has one goal in mind; patients’ requirements.

He said: “If you are using an injectable, you would expect a company like GlaxoSmithKline to bring all the best practices to bear to make sure it is safe.

“Our ambition is to meet and exceed expectations and we have to keep re-lifing our assets.

“We take care and continue to develop the assets we have already invested in to make sure they maintain their integrity.

“But, at some point, we need to draw on these new investments and this is the right time to do it.

“It will give us the capability to make sterile liquid products at Barnard Castle for the next 20 to 30 years.”

Nigel Wood, the company’s engineering director, who is overseeing the aseptic development, added: “It is a long time since we had this opportunity.

“The capital we are getting into the site leads to employment for other companies in the area too.

“It is key we got this (because it helps in) securing the jobs on the site, but it’s also securing what we put into the local economy as well.”

The company’s planned growth comes as part of a £275m endeavour launched by outgoing chief executive, Sir Andrew Witty, which also includes improvements to plants in Scotland and Hertfordshire.

Sir Andrew had previously called on Britain to remain in the EU, citing fears over what a departure could bring.

However, upon announcing the plans, he said the UK remains an attractive proposition, highlighting its skilled workforce, life sciences repute and lower taxes.

At Barnard Castle, it means the aseptic facility will join a broad spectrum of existing products made in the factory, which range from antibiotics, for things like children’s inner ear infections, to creams and ointments, for eczema, cold sores and psoriasis.

The base is also responsible for respiratory goods, which help patients with severe asthma and hay fever, and treatments of cancer, HIV and children’s leukaemia.

However, the site is working on another product, which has officials excited at its potential.

Earlier this year, The Northern Echo reported Barnard Castle was leading the fight to cut new-born baby deaths by spearheading the development of the Umbipro gel.

Officials say it could save hundreds of thousands of lives by preventing umbilical cord-related fatalities in Africa and Asia.

It has been designed to replace traditions such as placing ash and dung on wounds when the cord is cut, to encourage healing.

Using the antiseptic chlorhexidine, which is already in GlaxoSmithKline’s Corsodyl mouthwash, the company expects to make millions of gel sachets, working alongside the Save the Children charity as a not-for-profit endeavour.

The first batches have already been made in the region and sent to Kenya.

Mr Leighton said: “We talk a lot about the aseptic business, but we are still heavily investing in the dermatological business because we have, for the first time in 20 years, a pipeline of products coming through to treat those diseases in different ways.

“The preventative gel is one of the most positive outcomes we’ve had from our partnership with Save The Children.

“Corsodyl is something we have made for years but providing a treatment like that is not as simple as splashing on a bit of mouthwash.

“We have to develop a formulation that will stay stable for a long time in a sachet that people in Africa can get access too.

“In a gel, it needs to stay where you want it to stay, and as babies have a propensity to move around a lot, you need to make sure it sticks where it’s supposed to.

“Where it has been delivered so far, because it’s still fairly early in its lifecycle, in those regions of Kenya, it’s had a profound effect.

“Our job now is to increase access to that innovative nursing in those parts of the world that unfortunately cannot take hygiene for granted like we can to some extent.

“It is something that the teams at Barnard Castle are really proud of.

“We will continue to make it and will be able to regionalise it.

“Critically important is the quality of medicines.

“That is the day job, to make sure that the integrity of the product and that the patient using them gets what they expect.

“A strength of Barnard Castle is that we can respond to the diverse needs of what is a very diverse, global company.

“We want to participate in the global community.”

Being part of that international fabric means GlaxoSmithKline’s Barnard Castle base goes far beyond its factories and equipment.

People, says Mr Leighton, are just as important.

The company has 39 apprentices, all at different stages of their development, and ten industrial placements.

It also has a number of graduates on its Future Leaders Programme, which allows youngsters to strengthen their skills and knowledge, and takes on a number of summer and work experience students.

Nowhere is the focus on people and their achievements in the business’ successes more evident than a collage of pictures and newspaper cuttings that line the walls of a corridor to chart GlaxoSmithKline’s County Durham history from 1945 to the present day.

Polly Lerner, HR business lead, reflects that, saying: “There is always that ‘we can do more’ attitude; the history of Barnard Castle is about the next generation.”

Sitting in the company’s consumer healthcare design offices, where branding for its off-the-shelf goods are worked up, artwork and design apprentices, Tilly Greer and Sophie Hawman, look at brightly coloured examples of products.

They are a fine example of that forward-thinking.

When they aren’t at college, they are working on new ideas.

“I love my job,” said Miss Hawman, “and you feel like you are part of a community here.”

“There are so many opportunities,” added Miss Greer, “and it’s not difficult to come to work and be motivated.”

Jessica Burns, who is on an engineering industrial placement, echoes the positivity, adding that by learning on the job she can gain experience and help the company move forward.

She said: “The scheme is really good.

“The biggest challenge is applying the theory you learn at university, however, I’ve been able to do projects here to help with that.

“I will go back and finish my degree and I hope to go onto bigger things.”

Khaled Chowdhury, who works in engineering and is part of Future Leaders, said the support given by the firm has heightened his desire for a long career in healthcare.

He said: “You get to go to three different business areas and see how the company works, so you are experiencing three different job roles.”

Laurianne Griffiths, early talent programme manager, said it was important the younger generation continued to come on board, both for their presence to cover the cycle of staff and their comfort with new and emerging technologies.

She said: “Our early talent pipeline is the future capability of our business; they bring fresh eyes and an energy, which is revitalising. “Reverse mentoring with our early talent is vital, as their knowledge is current and future thinking and it teaches others and keeps us on our toes.

“Our aim is to give all successful apprentices a full-time role at the end and encourage them to knuckle down, do their best and go the extra mile.”

Mr Leighton added: “GlaxoSmithKline have made a strong commitment to UK manufacturing here and have done that because we have got capability, which we want to maintain.

“We create opportunities for young people and just as important as facilities is generating that interest in science, technology and engineering, so young people choose to take careers in this type of organisation.

“Without those type of folk coming through, we not going to be able to run an organisation like this in Teesdale.”