Queen’s Award for company that played key role in fight against Covid

A Tees company that played a vital role in the fight against Covid-19 has received a Queen’s Award for Enterprise in International Trade.

Absolute Antibody, based at the Wilton Centre, a WAPG site near Redcar, was told 14 months ago that it was being given the UK’s top business award in recognition of the rapid increase in its overseas sales over the previous three years.

The acknowledgement of the company’s exporting success was made before news emerged of its vital contribution to breakthroughs in the testing and treatment of Covid patients.

The presentation of the Queen’s Award was delayed because of the pandemic. It could not take place at Buckingham Palace and has now been held at the Wilton Centre.

Receiving the honour from the Lord-Lieutenant of North Yorkshire Johanna Ropner, Absolute Antibody’s COO, Dr Catherine Bladen, said: “I’m very proud to say that we proved ourselves to be a valuable part of the supply chain and a small part of the incredible scientific response to Covid-19.”

She provided Mrs Ropner and her deputy, Chris Legard, with a brief insight into the company’s work during the pandemic when Absolute Antibody’s ability to respond more quickly and flexibly than most of its competitors came to the fore.

“For one contract customer, we made one gram of two antibodies from a convalescent patient, and we prepared this in less than five weeks from sequencing that antibody,” she added.

New customers emerged, such as diagnostic companies, who needed a regular supply of antibodies rather than just a one-off.

From May to August last year, for example, the main focus of Absolute Antibody’s laboratory team was to produce two grams per month of a Covid-19 antibody for an antibody test.

The company also provided antibodies for 100 pharmaceutical companies in more than 20 countries to support their work in finding solutions against the virus.

Around 80% of its business comes from overseas sales and Dr Bladen told her guests exporting was extremely challenging.

“You have to be the world’s best, or you have to offer something that nobody else offers,” she said.

“Our company was created by scientists for scientists.” Its products and services were designed to solve their problems, regardless of where they were in the world.

Mrs Ropner and Mr Legard were given a tour of Absolute Antibody’s laboratories and met some of the staff.

She told them: “To receive a Queen’s Award for Enterprise is a huge honour. It opens doors and gives real credibility – not that you need it.

“I feel immensely proud that you’re in our lieutenancy. Very, very well done to each and every one of you.

“I look forward to coming back and presenting you, I’m sure, with another Queen’s Award for Enterprise in a different category.”

More than 600 other UK businesses applied for the 2020 award. Absolute Antibody and 215 others were successful.

Launched in 1965, The Queen’s Awards for Enterprise are considered the most prestigious awards for UK businesses, recognising and encouraging the outstanding achievements of innovative British companies.

Absolute Antibody was founded in Oxford in 2012, opened a manufacturing facility at the Wilton Centre in 2014 and moved its headquarters there two years ago.

During that time it has increased its number of staff from three to 50 plus and now has eight laboratories and office spaces. The company has significant expansion plans for the next 12 months.

Claire Morton, Wilton Centre’s accommodation manager, said: “It’s been a real pleasure working with Absolute Antibody to make sure that its growing needs have been met.

“We believe one of the many attractions of the Wilton Centre is its capacity to allow businesses to expand removing the distraction, disruption and expense of having to move.”

Absolute Antibody is among 60 occupiers at the Wilton Centre who will soon benefit from a major £2m refurbishment programme.

Later this year a new entrance, reception area and restaurants will be opened, along with numerous collaborative working areas which will provide suitable spaces for new ways of working.

Pictured above: Dr Catherine Bladen, COO of Absolute Antibody, and Johanna Ropner, the Lord-Lieutenant of North Yorkshire