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9 March, 2006 - 16:46 By Staff Reporter

Japanese commitment hands region a boost

Japanese biopharmaceutical company Sosei has reversed the trend that has seen several overseas acquirers rationalise and downsize following an acquisition of an East of England company.

Following its acquisition of Cambridge biotech star, Arakis, Sosei is in expansion mode in the East of England.

Arakis is to move into a new purpose-built building, almost trebling its existing floorspace at Chesterford Research Park, with the newly expanded operation acting as Sosei’s European headquarters.

Recent experience has shown home-grown Life Sciences companies that job security for the rank and file employee is not at the top of many foreign buyer’s list of priorities. The most dramatic example of this came with Millennium Pharmaceuticals’ decision to retrench to the US, cutting 150 East of England jobs, three years after its acquisition of Cambridge Discovery Chemistry.

US company Accelrys more recently announced that following a number of demonstrations of commitment to its Cambridge operation, it is to close one of its divisions there and pare back its workforce.

Arakis, however, which currently employs around 40, says it plans to add more staff "across the board" in the upcoming year.

Sosei paid £106.5m for Arakis last July. It is understood that the only two jobs to have been cut to date have been those of former CEO, Dr Ken Cunningham and CFO Peter Keen, who left as part of the acquisition.

Stuart Gibson, director of finance at Arakis said: "Since we were acquired by Sosei in August 2005, significant progress has been made to successfully integrate the two companies.

"Additional space is required to continue the expansion of the Group’s R & D base in Europe as an integral part of the Sosei’s strategic vision of becoming a global top ten biopharmaceutical company.

"We are delighted that Chesterford Research Park has been able to accommodate these needs and allow us to more than double our floor area in a purpose built office building. The office will be the base for the Group’s operations in Europe, providing an excellent environment for research, development and commercial activities."

Arakis will occupy Building 400, a 15,000 sq ft purpose-built R & D office building, located opposite the Park’s central facilities building, The Nucleus. It will provide two floors of offices, plant room and external stores, plus 42 car parking spaces. The agreed rent is approximately £20 psf on a 15 year lease. Work will start on the new facility in March 2006 and is expected to be completed by February 2007. Arakis, which moved to the Park in 2001, currently occupies 5,500 sq ft on the Park.

Martin Sylvester, director at joint developer Churchmanor Estates said: "Back in 2000, Chesterford was a 250 acre single corporate research and development facility, comprising some 350,000 sq ft.

"We have put in place the infrastructure, facilities, management and travel arrangements to be able to bring forward 600,000 sq ft of laboratory accommodation, specifically designed for research companies such as Arakis working in the biotech sector."

There have been further examples of overseas companies buying British, stripping out intellectual property assets before hot-footing out of the country - most notably Canadian company, Inflazyme following its acquisition of Chesterford based Adprotech and US based Aradigm following its acquisition of Weston Medical out of administration.

But it does not automatically signal the death knell. Asterand, Biovitrum and Galapagos, all of which are new-comers to the region through acquisitions of the region's companies, have all stated their commitment to the East of England bio-cluster.







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