The formula for success

The recession and related fallout has not held back one North East company as Peter Jackson reports.

Hart Biologicals has come unscathed through the economic turbulence, is celebrating one of the best years in its history and is looking to triple sales in five years.

It exports all over the world and has added new laboratories to its Hartlepool headquarters to cope with an increased workload.

It has an annual turnover of more than £1m, of which more than 70% is exports.

Owner and founder Alby Pattison says: “I’d like to see us hitting £3m of sales in five years and significantly increased staffing. Job creation is something that we should try to aspire to do.’’

He adds: The major concern for us is if our suppliers are affected by the downturn because that’s something that we don’t have control over, but, in terms of our own products, hospitals are hospitals and people get ill.’’

The Hartlepool-based company makes biological reagents used to investigate blood clotting disorders. Its work includes the management of the drug Warfarin which helps prevent strokes.

“We have contracts with a number of key multinational diagnostics manufacturing companies around the world,’’ says Pattison. “We manufacture for organisations in Europe, USA, and Thailand, that’s under our contracts manufacturing banner but under the Hart Biologicals own-branded materials we sell into Europe, Asia, Australia, and we are working on a programme to take our products into the USA.’’

Alby Pattison set up the own company nine years ago and was determined to locate it in his home town.

He explains: “I’m Hartlepool born and bred, my two brothers work for me, my sister-in-law works for me, my nephew works for me. I wanted the company to be in Hartlepool more for personal reasons than anything else because my kids were well settled in school.’’

Pattison graduated in biochemistry at Manchester in 1980 and worked in haematology in hospitals before moving on to pharmaceutical research. After that, he spent 14 years working in diagnostics manufacturing and in 2002 decided to take the plunge and set up his own business in the area of blood coagulation, his specialisastion during his years of research.

He recalls: “At the time, it was a complete leap in the dark. From the business plan I knew what I wanted to do but when I told my wife I wasn’t going back to work she had to pick herself up off the floor.’’

The company was set up in 2003 in a 2,000sq ft rented facility in Hartlepool. By 2005 Hart Biologicals needed bigger facilities, moved to another Hartlepool trading estate where it continued to expand rapidly. In 2009 it moved to the newly completed Queens Meadow estate where it took 10,000sq ft.

Hart Biologicals makes reagents to cover three areas: the monitoring of Warfarin therapy for hospital and clinic environments; to supply pathology labs in hospitals; the management of acute bleeding in surgery at the point of care. Hart Biologicals forms partnerships with instrument manufacturers to make the biological materials to go in their machines.

The company has also started to do R&D for several clients.

“We have some significant plans. Some of our links with companies in Europe have led us being contracted as their new reagent research and development partner,’’ says Pattison. “They have recognised our expertise in this area so as well as simply manufacturing for them they have asked us to be their R&D partner and that starts in 2012 as well as a scale up of our manufacturing for two of these companies.’’

Hart Biological is also forging links with North East universities to collaborate on research projects and to provide input to the curricula for bio medical science degrees.

It is has also invested in new labs and equipment - including a £100,000 freeze-drier - to meet the requirements of increased manufacturing demand.