Burgeoning company expands at Thorp Arch

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A MAJOR expansion is being carried out at the Thorp Arch Estate in Wetherby by fast-growing biotechnology company Avacta Group Plc.

More than 10,000ft sq of additional space is being leased by Avacta for use as new laboratories and offices.

The expansion is a welcome move for the Thorp Arch Estate’s management, which is keen to develop a science park on the north side of the two million ft sq site.

Avacta, which creates analytical tools for drug developers and diagnostics for vets, currently has 70 staff and posted increased revenue of £1.7 million in the six months to January 31. It relocated to the Thorp Arch Estate from The Bio Centre, York Science Park, two years ago.

The company has taken 3,400ft sq of additional space at Unit 651, the estate’s first purpose-built office premises, which is being fitted out as new laboratories, and a further 7,244ft sq at Unit 706 to create more offices and manufacturing space.

The expansion follows Avacta’s acquisition in January of Leeds University spin-out biotechnology company, Aptuscan Ltd, founded by chief scientific officer, prof Paul Ko Ferringo, which develops engineered proteins for pharmaceutical, biotechnology, and diagnostic companies.

Avacta also has its origins in research at Leeds University and was founded in 2006 with venture capital funding before floating on the London Stock Market later that year. The company has two key operating businesses, Avacta Analytical and Avacta Animal Health.

Chief executive Alastair Smith said: “Prof Ko Ferringo and Aptuscan have a significant role to play in our expanding enterprise as it has a proprietary affinity reagents platform which will provide agents for Avacta and create exciting new business development opportunities.

“Avacta Group’s two core businesses are moving towards profitability and because of finance we have recently raised, we are fully funded to accelerate further growth through Aptuscan and our own product pipeline.”

He added: “Our expansion at Thorp Arch Estate will accommodate our immediate business growth. This is an ideal location for biotechnology enterprises with a tranquil atmosphere and excellent access to the motorway network and we are enthusiastic about the estate management’s plans to create a wider science park facility.”

Tim Munns, director of Wharfedale Property Management Ltd, which manages the estate for owner Rockspring Hanover Property Unit Trust, said: “We’re pleased that after two years at Thorp Arch Estate, Avacta sees its longer-term future here.

“We are keen to develop a science park, focusing on health and innovation, on the north side of the estate, providing laboratories and offices for enterprises with similar requirements to Avacta.

“We believe that the estate can play an important role in supporting such businesses by providing cost-effective facilities and a flexible approach for when they are ready to finish their incubation periods at university science parks and become part of a more diverse business community.”

The two million ft sq Thorp Arch Estate, a former war time munitions factory, is the base for a diverse range of more than 150 businesses, from start-ups to large Plcs, operating in local, national and international markets and employing more than 2,000 people. Thorp Arch Retail Park, which forms part of the estate, was the first out-of-town shopping centre in the country when it opened in 1959 and is complemented by a variety of leisure facilities.