The home-grown Welsh industry includes a broad mix of biotech companies operating in diverse fields, but primary sectors include medical devices and diagnostics, bio/pharmaceutical manufacturing, contract and clinical research, clinical trials, and contract service companies, Dr. Wallis explains.
In fact, there are over 100 medical device companies alone in Wales, and the country's diagnostics sector is believed to be responsible for producing a high percentage of all the diagnostic products sold in Europe today.
A significant pool of skilled research and technical staff, combined with complementary support companies, has also helped a number of multinational companies, including GE Healthcare, establish research and manufacturing operations in Wales.
The Huntleigh Diagnostics (www.huntleigh-diagnostics. com) division of multinational group Huntleigh Technology (Luton, U.K.) also originated in Cardiff, where it retains its manufacturing facility.
Clinical research is a particular strength, Dr. Wallis adds. Marix Drug Development (www.marix. co.uk), for example, is located on the dedicated Medi-Science Park near Cardiff, in a 30-bed clinical research facility built for the company by the WDA, adjacent to the 700-bed Royal Glamorgan Hospital.
Specializing in the provision of tailored early-phase clinical trials and clinical pharmacology services to clients worldwide, Marix also offers a full spectrum of consultancy and management expertise for drug development programs, their planning, and execution.
What sets Marix apart, claims commercial director John Roberts, is its ability to plan and execute complex Phase I/IIa trials. "Pharmaceutical and biotech companies want increasing amounts of pharmacodynamic and pharmacokinetic data from early volunteer trials, to help judge whether a new drug will be effective in its target disease.
"We have in-house expertise in the CNS, respiratory, and cardiovascular areas particularly with full-time clinicians in these fields and dedicated research laboratories. This combined expertise enables us to carry out highly detailed early trials, while keeping a focus on volunteer and patient safety."
Marix has also set up a network of Therapeutic Expert Partnerships (TEPs) to provide clients with any expertise not available in-house. "Each Marix TEP is a collaboration with experts in different therapeutic areas, who work with us to provide specialist advice or services in a range of therapeutic, clinical, or consultancy fields," Roberts points out.
"It's a unique set-up that has been so successful, we aim in the near future to double the capacity of our clinical research facility on the Medi-Science Park."
Marix' plans for expansion mirror those of a number of other clinical/contract research and services companies, Dr. Wallis suggests.