Growth of ALS Pharmaceuticals in Ely - sales of more than £1m and a workforce that has almost doubled - is down to 'our dedicated team'

PUBLISHED: 11:36 10 June 2019 | UPDATED: 11:47 10 June 2019

Behind the scenes at Ely's biggest laboratory, ALS Pharmaceuticals. Picture: HARRY RUTTER.

Behind the scenes at Ely's biggest laboratory, ALS Pharmaceuticals. Picture: HARRY RUTTER.

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Since expanding three years ago, Ely-based ALS Pharmaceuticals has almost doubled its workforce from 37 to 65 whilst seeing a 37 per cent sales increase in the last year alone - the equivalent of over £1m.

Reporters Ben Jolley and Harry Rutter on their tour of ALS Pharmaceuticals in Ely.Reporters Ben Jolley and Harry Rutter on their tour of ALS Pharmaceuticals in Ely.

Following the £2.1m site expansion in 2016, the laboratory on the Cambridgeshire Business Park has been hailed by company bosses as a "centre of excellence for pharmaceutical quality testing".

When visiting the site earlier this year Raj Naran, ALS Ltd managing director and chief executive officer, described it as "providing the blueprint for the company's global expansion plans in the healthcare sector".

The business, which has sister laboratories located across Europe, offers a range of high quality analytical testing services for the healthcare industries.

Behind the scenes at Ely's biggest laboratory, ALS Pharmaceuticals. Picture: HARRY RUTTER.Behind the scenes at Ely's biggest laboratory, ALS Pharmaceuticals. Picture: HARRY RUTTER.

Clients include local NHS hospitals and many of Europe's leading manufacturers of medicines, as well as medical device, nutritional supplement and cosmetic producers.

Sharon Hanly, general manager, describes ALS as being "a critical step in the supply chain from drug manufacturing to patient; our main concern is product quality and ultimately patient safety".

She adds that "we estimate that our Ely laboratory helps to facilitate the release of around 3-5 per cent (by volume) of all medicines to the UK market.

Behind the scenes at Ely's biggest laboratory, ALS Pharmaceuticals. Picture: HARRY RUTTER.Behind the scenes at Ely's biggest laboratory, ALS Pharmaceuticals. Picture: HARRY RUTTER.

"Paracetamol is our highest volume product although we note a continued rise in the number of anti-depressants and anti-psychotics coming through our doors.

"Similarly, we estimate that our UK food testing laboratories support testing of over a third of all the food products in the supermarkets (at some stage in the supply process).

"Meanwhile, our Chatteris food testing laboratory is one of the largest food testing laboratories in the world."

Behind the scenes at Ely's biggest laboratory, ALS Pharmaceuticals. Picture: HARRY RUTTER.Behind the scenes at Ely's biggest laboratory, ALS Pharmaceuticals. Picture: HARRY RUTTER.

Following a record-breaking year in terms of revenue, Dan Bradley, sales manager, believes that the growth is because of "the dedicated team that we have in place at Ely.

"We have grown more quickly than we anticipated - from 15 back in 2009 to 65 now, but we are still taking on more people across the site.

"Many members of our management team have worked their way through the business which I think has been key to our success.

Behind the scenes at Ely's biggest laboratory, ALS Pharmaceuticals. Picture: HARRY RUTTER.Behind the scenes at Ely's biggest laboratory, ALS Pharmaceuticals. Picture: HARRY RUTTER.

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"We have invested heavily in staff training and development and there are a lot of opportunities for our staff to progress at ALS."

The pharmaceutical industry itself is growing rapidly, he says: "People are living longer and health problems are becoming ever more complex, therefore requiring a wider range of medical solutions.

Behind the scenes at Ely's biggest laboratory, ALS Pharmaceuticals. Picture: HARRY RUTTER.Behind the scenes at Ely's biggest laboratory, ALS Pharmaceuticals. Picture: HARRY RUTTER.

"Our laboratory has typically focused on testing solid oral drugs, such as tablets and capsules, although we are now diversifying into testing more critical care drugs such as injectables and oncology (cancer treating) drugs.

"There are a number of new breakthrough cancer drugs coming off patent over the next few years which will ultimately mean wider access for patients and significantly reduced costs for the NHS. We want to play our part"

But how has Brexit affected ALS? "Brexit has actually been really positive for us, which definitely bucks the trend," he says.

Behind the scenes at Ely's biggest laboratory, ALS Pharmaceuticals. Picture: HARRY RUTTER.Behind the scenes at Ely's biggest laboratory, ALS Pharmaceuticals. Picture: HARRY RUTTER.

"At one point last year we were having to turn work away in the EU which is quite unusual because three years ago we were trying to attract work out there.

"At the moment it's working in our favour because the UK plays a critical role in the supply of medicines to Europe. The UK is home to a tremendous amount of pharmaceutical expertise and the UK pharmaceutical industry works at staggering pace.

"That said, we are working closely with our own European laboratories (in Prague and Sweden) to support testing wherever it is required by our clients whilst at the same time maintaining our focus on quality control testing for products specifically destined for the UK market.

"We do see that some healthcare companies are creating two operations to help ensure continuity regardless of the political outcome."

In terms of the future, Sharon believes it's a very exciting time for the business: "We have a range of career opportunities available within ALS and are always looking to support the local economy by bringing in more local talent.

"At a local level we are planning to expand our Ely site even further whilst on the wider stage we are looking to set up a second UK laboratory later in the year as well as develop new opportunities across the world."

ALS has operations in more than 350 locations, in 55 countries, and on six continents.

The group is focused on delivering services through four main divisions: minerals (geochemistry, metallurgy, mine site and inspection), life sciences (environmental, food and pharmaceutical, animal health and electronics), energy (coal and oil and gas), industrial (asset care and tribology).

In the UK and Ireland, ALS employs over 1,000 staff across 12 locations, with activities focused on minerals and life sciences.

For more information about ALS visit: www.als -testing.co.uk and www.alsglobal.com

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