WORK on a medical research centre hailed as a coup for technology and industry in the North-East has started with a ground-breaking ceremony.

The National Biologics Manufacturing Centre, part of the flagship Central Park development in Darlington, is a £38m initiative that will research and develop potentially life-saving cures and vaccines.

It is hoped that the centre, which was awarded to Darlington last year by the government after strong competition from other towns and cities, will help the North-East to become a world leader in biologic treatments.

Scientists and engineers will work to develop prototype medications that have biological foundations, such as cells, bacteria and yeast. Biotechnology is seen as the future of all medicines and already a fifth of new medicines are derived from biologics.

Building work on the centre, which lies off Yarm Road, is expected to take a year.

The centre will be managed by The Centre for Process Innovation (CPI), based in Wilton, near Redcar.

Dr Chris Dowle, CPI’s director of biologics, said: “The team has worked really hard and worked very well with Darlington Borough Council, which has been fantastic in helping us to get this up and running.

“People are delighted because of the regeneration that it will provide for the town, with a lot of new jobs both directly and indirectly.

“I hope that this is the start of making Darlington a centre for science and puts it on the map nationally.”

Sandy Anderson, chairman of Tees Valley Unlimited, which lobbied to bring the biologics centre to Darlington, said: “This town and this area has been known for its innovation and this is just a new aspect to that.

“Industrial biotechnology is very much the up and coming technology and it’s important that we are in the forefront.”

Council leader Bill Dixon said the biologics centre showed the potential strength of the Central Park project.

He added: “It sends out a clear message that people want to invest in Darlington.

“We beat off tough competition to secure this national centre for excellence and it will provide the foundations for a biomedical and pharmaceutical industry to prosper in Darlington.

“The kinds of jobs it will create are highly skilled and knowledge-based which is great news for young people who want to stay in the area and secure a skilled job.”