LightOx has been based in The Biosphere on Newcastle Helix for one year developing drugs to treat early-stage mouth cancers. Their portfolio of light activated therapeutics have been formulated for use via a topical delivery method and they are eagerly anticipating the commencement of trials for the treatment which looks to take place in 2023.
Having been based in the North East since its beginnings in 2016, we spoke with LightOx CEO, Dr Sam Whitehouse to find out about the life science cluster in the region and the thriving community at The Biosphere.
Why is Newcastle the location of choice for a life science business?
Newcastle has a growing and vibrant life science cluster and a range of expertise in the local population. It is also easy to find skilled and motivated staff who bring an enthusiasm for science and technology, which is really attractive to businesses in the sector.
Logistically, transport links here are excellent, both by train and plane, which makes working collaboratively a lot easier. The quality of life for staff is also superb with a low cost of living and picturesque beaches and countryside.
What were your reasons for setting up operations in The Biosphere?
The Biosphere provided an entry point for our company to establish its own laboratory in the city and still retain access to facilities in the local universities which is essential to the work we undertake.
Being in the building means you have better relationships with other life science companies in the region and often we have collaborated and provided services to our neighbours. It remains the only dedicated life science building in the region for small companies like LightOx.
Why did you choose Newcastle as a location for your business? What is the value of being based here?
Newcastle is a central location in the North East and you can attract talent from a number of local universities and businesses. The city is a vibrant place to live and boasts two of the best hospitals in the country, making collaboration on clinical projects much easier. The city itself is easy to navigate and The Biosphere is a short walking distance from Central Station which can reach London, Edinburgh, Leeds and Manchester all in under three hours.
Over the last 10 years the life science scene in Newcastle has grown exponentially. There is a long history of excellent science in the region and the translation of this into commercial entities has now become the norm. Traditionally, the North East has been known for manufacturing but this has translated into the life science arena too. There’s a real commitment to quality which is evident in the companies based here.
Why do you think more and more businesses are choosing Newcastle over the Golden Triangle?
I feel the Golden Triangle often overstates its importance to research, and the self-fulfilling narrative from government means there is a constant flow of research money to that area.
The reality is often quite different, with companies basing themselves outside the South East for many of their operations beyond corporate offices. Newcastle provides an excellent breeding ground for new and talented entrepreneurs, with a better quality of life and costs for operating a business here.
How would you describe the life science and business community in Newcastle?
Talented, friendly, expansive, welcoming and ambitious!
What do you think is driving life science sector growth in Newcastle?
The life science growth in Newcastle has been made possible by the positioning of The Biosphere and the focus on highlighting the talent in the region. We have been able to recruit and retain the best employees, and this has led to the creation of a number of new companies. I believe that this will continue for many decades, provided we have access to capital.
Newcastle has been described as an untapped market, with a growing private sector that wasn’t here 10 years ago. What is the opportunity here?
I believe that with the right investment, there is a huge opportunity for the life science sector in Newcastle and the North East. The ability for these companies to grow is mainly limited by access to capital. The region is capable of providing excellent grow-on space for companies that are expanding to ensure they stay here. We know there is a strong demand just from the number of small companies now searching for lab space now that The Biosphere is full!
To find out more about LightOx visit https://lightox.co.uk/