A REVOLUTIONARY firm behind blindness prevention treatment aims to treble its workforce in a new factory, The Northern Echo can reveal.

PolyPhotonix has confirmed it wants to builds a purpose-built base at NETPark, in Sedgefield, County Durham.

It is hoped the site will open in early 2016.

The company, which employs about 20 staff, is behind a pioneering sleep mask capable of transforming treatment of eye disease in diabetes sufferers.

Bosses estimate the masks, developed thanks to £14m of taxpayers’ funding, could save the NHS £1bn every year.

The expansion plans come after Durham County Council’s cabinet approved £12.9m funding to expand NETPark and create more jobs.

PolyPhotonix works in labs at the site run by the Centre for Process Innovation (CPI), but chief executive Richard Kirk, who set up the business with CPI in 2009, said it was now primed for further growth.

He told The Northern Echo: “We knew about the council expansion and have been working on our plans for the last 12 months.

“It will bring jobs, it’s going to take a little time to get going, but there is a lot going on behind the scenes.

“By the time the factory opens, we hope to have about 60 workers.

“These people will be drawn from the local area.

“We are a company of many people with PHDs and high qualifications, but the next wave will be across the board, from account and project managers to technicians.”

The firm’s masks are being offered for the first time anywhere in the world at ten independent opticians across Durham and Tees Valley, before an anticipated national roll-out.

Bosses say its Noctura 400 mask has been designed to deliver a precise dose of light therapy to sleeping patients.

They also revealed the Government is so excited by the potential benefits they have put it on a fast track towards approval by National Institute for Health Care and Excellence over the next 18 months, meaning it could soon be offered on the NHS.

Mr Kirk added: “The support has been from all levels.

“People with the eye disease are very excited because for years there has been not been accessible or inexpensive treatment.

“But we are also delighted by the support from the NHS, the Government and surgeons in the area, and every corner we turn people are backing us.

“We are becoming a template to show how it doesn’t have to be a slow or difficult process.”

Mr Kirk also said the firm’s successes had led to industry awards, with a North-East honour followed by it being shortlisted for a national business award, and Mr Kirk shortlisted as one of the top 100 most influential UK manufacturers.