A Sunderland business success story celebrating its 20th anniversary is starting its next chapter with a multi-million-pound investment in the city that gave it a chance and a home.
Onyx Scientific started out at the North East Business and Innovation Centre (BIC) in 2000 with just seven members of staff and an empty unit.
Fast forward to today and the drug research, development and manufacturing specialist has established itself as a leading name in the life sciences industry. It employs 70 people at five units in the city, boasts a global client list and has branched out into a site in the USA.
Now, occupying over 50,000 sq ft of high-end lab space, the company has pledged its commitment to Sunderland, its confidence in the future and its plans for growth.
Continued expansion at the North East BIC has allowed the business to focus its laboratory work at the business park where it has signed a new 10-year lease. And a further £3million investment at a base on neighbouring industrial land near the Queen Alexandra Bridge will allow the company to undertake commercial manufacturing on a bigger scale.
Onyx is recruiting again to satisfy demand for its ever-growing services and expects to have more than 100 staff on its payroll in the next five years.
Denise Bowser, Commercial Director and a Founding Director of Onyx, said: “The North East BIC and Sunderland Council took a chance on us when we were starting out. We were a business with no credit rating, no credibility and no clients, but we had a strong vision & business plan.
“On paper we were less than attractive but they saw our growth potential as an employer of high-quality jobs. They had the foresight to give us the support we needed to get lift-off and they gave us the assistance we needed to allow us to grow our business.
“Our dedication to Sunderland is the reward for the faith they showed us right from the outset. We’ve invested millions into our Sunderland facilities and our latest expansion is a tangible sign of the confidence we have in our future in the city.”
In 2011 Onyx became part of the Ipca Laboratories family, an international pharmaceutical company based in India. The move provides the company with access to seven drug development sites globally. Onyx also owns a pilot plant facility in Northern Carolina, USA.
Denise added: “Good chemistry and fantastic staff are at the heart of what we do. We now have the capability to take a job from the identification of a lead molecule, into phase one studies and right through to commercial manufacture.
“We are incredibly proud of what we have achieved here in Sunderland and the part we have played in the region’s bigger economic story. We have the reputation, the skills, the ambition and the financial stability to have real confidence in the future.”
North East BIC Operations Director David Howell said: “The mission of the North East BIC has always been one of economic regeneration so it is especially fitting that a life sciences business has become one of our greatest success stories. The quality employment and exciting career opportunities offered by Onyx are a perfect example of the future we want for the North East.
“Having been personally involved with Onyx from the outset in 2000 it is particularly pleasing to have witnessed their amazing growth first hand. Onyx’s success shows what can happen when people work together and to this day, we use our strong relationships with Sunderland City Council and others to take the long view when it comes to supporting businesses.”
Councillor Graeme Miller, leader of Sunderland City Council, said: “Supporting businesses with the potential to create high-value jobs in the city is a key objective of the council and we’re delighted to have been able to work shoulder-to-shoulder with the North East BIC to provide Onyx with everything it has needed to continue innovating and growing.
“Sunderland is a city built on collaboration and innovation and Onyx is a success story that encapsulates that perfectly. We are proud to have been able to support the company and look forward to seeing it continue increasing its footprint in the city as we look to the future.”