ReNeuron stem cell firm relocates in £33.2m investment

Lab technician with stem cell cultures The company could create 45 jobs in south Wales over the next three years

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A medical company is due to relocate to south Wales after securing £33.2m to continue its research into stem cells which can repair damaged tissue.

ReNeuron has received almost £13m in Welsh government grants and investments as part of its move from Guildford.

Minister Edwina Hart said life sciences was a key business sector with the "potential to make a significant contribution to the Welsh economy".

The company is working on treatment for stroke patients.

Bosses are planning to relocate to south Wales over the next two years, bringing 25 jobs and possibly expanding to employ about 70 people.

Analysis: Prof Sir Chris Evans

Prof Sir Chris Evans

Sir Chris Evans has made a career and a fortune out of starting up and building medical companies.

He has a rare combination of skills which include a scientific background as a microbiologist and a hard-nosed sense of finance and profits.

He says the companies he's set up over a 20 year period employ nearly 5,000 people in the UK.

Much of his work has been in the Cambridgeshire area but Economy Minister Edwina Hart is hoping his expertise can be used to benefit the Welsh medical technology and pharmaceutical industry, running Wales' £100m life sciences investment fund.

He's out-spoken and ambitious. When the fund was first announced, he said: "I'm pretty dogged about what I want to do.

"Once a Port Talbot boy, always a Port Talbot boy, and there may be some blood on the walls but who cares if we create a lot of jobs."

It has not been established exactly where the company will be based but it is looking a number of potential sites between Swansea and Cardiff.

The deal includes £7.8m of Welsh government grants and £5m equity investment from Wales Life Sciences Investment Fund which is worth £100m.

'Exciting and innovative'

The Welsh government says life sciences - which includes pharmaceutical and medical technology firms - employs 15,000 people in Wales and is worth £1.3bn to the economy.

Ministers have previously spoken about their desire to make Wales an attractive place for scientific research and development.

Arthurian Life Sciences Limited manages the investment fund and its chairman Prof Sir Chris Evans is said to have devised the plan leading to ReNeuron's move.

"This transaction represents the sort of exciting and innovative deal and investment that will become the hallmark of this Arthurian investment strategy for Wales," said Prof Evans, who is originally from Port Talbot.

He is a scientist and entrepreneur who has created over 50 medical companies with some since sold as multi-million pound enterprises.

Prof Evans helped bring the deal about, with £12.8m investment and grant money from Wales, which persuaded the company to move from Surrey to Wales.

He said the firm was likely to be located close to Cardiff.

"We're not rushing into it, it's something we'll look at carefully over the next few months," he told BBC Radio Wales.

Prof Evans said if things panned out well, manufacturing and research would expand and there was a potential for hundreds of jobs in the long term "with some of the highest skilled jobs you're ever likely to see in Wales."

Ms Hart, Minister for Business, Economy, Transport and Science, said she was "delighted" by ReNeuron plans.

"ReNeuron is the first company in the world to have been granted permission to run clinical trials of ground-breaking stem cell technology to treat patients with stroke, one of the top three causes of death and a leading cause of adult disability in Wales," she said.

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