ONE of the region's largest employers has put additional measures in place to protect employees and ensure business continuity in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.

GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) which has a site on Harmire Road, in Barnard Castle, said its Teesdale factory remains open and operational.

The pharmaceutical firm said it is continuing to closely follow the guidance from all relevant authorities including Public Health England.

It has put additional measures in place at sites including Barnard Castle in the hopes of protecting employees.

A GSK spokesperson said: “All of our sites in the UK, including Barnard Castle, are operational but we are continuing to follow the guidance from relevant authorities.

"In line with our existing plans for these types of situation, several sites have put additional measures in place to protect employees and ensure business continuity.

“In terms of our supply chain for medicines, vaccines and consumer healthcare products, we have sufficient supply in the short term, but obviously this is something we are keeping under review.”

It is understood that some of the additional safety measures GSK have put in place include asking site visitors questions to ascertain if they have recently travelled to high risk countries and or whether they have experienced COVID-19 symptoms.

The firm's scientists are working with international organisations including the World Health Organization (WHO), Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) and governments worldwide to help treat coronavirus.

GSK is supplying its vaccine adjuvant technology to scientists and organisations working on candidate vaccines and have started several collaborations.

An adjuvant is added to some vaccines to enhance the immune response, thereby creating a stronger and longer lasting immunity against infections than the vaccine alone.

The team said the use of an adjuvant is of particular importance in a pandemic situation since it can reduce the amount of antigen required per dose, allowing more vaccine doses to be produced and made available to more people.

GSK said it is still at the early stages of the collaborations that use adjuvant technology however.

The ongoing pre-clinical and then clinical research being undertaken by the partner companies and research groups will determine the progress of the vaccine candidates.

Thomas Breuer, chief medical officer, at GSK said: "Our adjuvant technology has previously been used successfully in the pandemic flu setting.

"It enables using only small quantities of the vaccine antigen which allows the production of more doses of the vaccine – a crucial advantage in a pandemic."