Firm's Boost for Medical Research

Article excerpt

MEDICAL research has been given a boost by Billingham-based Cambridge Research Biochemicals (CRB).

The company, which produces synthetic peptides - essentially, fragments of proteins - leapt ahead of rivals in April by installing one of the world's most advanced peptide synthesisers, and the only one of its kind in Europe.

Understanding proteins - how they work, how they help the body fight disease and infection - is the key to drug discovery and development, and improving health care provision. But relying on naturally occurring proteins can both delay, and increase the costs of, vital medical research. Hence, manufacturing peptides 'to order' by chemical synthesis, and generating their antibody, is a cost-effective and quicker way for scientists to work.

CRB, the world's second-oldest peptide company, has customers that include the top ten giants of the international pharmaceutical world as well as world-renowned research institutes.

But being able to deliver a high level of service requires constant innovation, according to CRB's commercial director Emily Humphrys who, with business partner Alison White, acquired the company in a management buy-out in 2000.

"There's no option to sit still in business - not for a British business competing globally," she said. "We have to be one step ahead in our marketing and technical advantage.

Alison and I believe strongly in delivering the best possible service to our customers, and that means being prepared to invest. It also means being prepared to be highly flexible so customers get a tailor-made service."

Another key part of CRB's forward-thinking approach is its strategic alliance with academic bodies, in particular the University of Durham. In a joint exercise with the University's School of Biological and Biomedical Science and Department of Chemistry, it is investigating proteins which play a key role in heart disease, cancer and allergies. The 12-month project, funded by the EPSRC (Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council), is focusing on a protein that plays a major role in atherosclerosis, known as 'furring of the arteries', which can lead to heart disease. …