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Special time of the year for company.

Byline: By Rebekah Ashby

Fast growing pharmaceutical company Specials has seen its workforce grow to more than 100 after a huge European trade show threw up 70 new business leads.

Specials, which operates two divisions, says its attendance at the International Contract Services Expo (ICSE) in Madrid has brought staff numbers at its Prudhoe headquarters up from 80 just eight weeks ago to 100.

It is currently recruiting development scientists, formulation staff and project managers to help with its rapid growth.

The pounds 6m business, which was launched as a tiny lab in Newcastle's Royal Victoria Infirmary employing three staff six years ago, says after ICSE six weeks ago it has 30 projects under discussion, 12 in "advance talks" and six already under way. The award-winning Specials Laboratory, set up by Fiona Cruickshank and business partner Brian Dougherty, manufactures unlicensed medicines for the retail pharmaceutical and healthcare markets.

Sister company Specials Clinical Manufacturing offers manufacturing services for the clinical-trials market.

Managing director Fiona Cruickshank said: "Madrid was a massive exhibition and although we are only six weeks down the line, and things take time in this industry, it was very successful for a relatively small company like us.

"We are hoping to start work next year on the six projects, all for development companies for new drugs and devices like inhalers. We took away 150 leads from the stand, of which 70 were good leads, so we are in the recruitment game again.

"We took a third unit on in September, but recruitment will always be a big challenge for us. We are currently eager to recruit the right people for the technical projects.

"We are currently developing The Specials Laboratory labs after we won a contract with a UK drugs company for use in US trials and we have a stack of new business development work to do."

A quarter of the 30 projects under discussion are with foreign companies, but because of the confidential nature of the drugs-trial market it cannot disclose company names or products.

She said: "We are really pleased with the way this year has gone and we have met our growth targets in terms of staff. The important thing now is to get top staff in, because things are really starting to gain momentum."

Specials expects to be able to make an announcement in the new year about growth targets for 2006.

The Specials Laboratory makes specials drugs ( products which are not subject to conventional medical licences. Often they are licensed in other areas and are adapted for a particular purpose, such as child doses, or put in a different form to suit a particular patient.

The company won the small business category of The Journal's North-East Business Awards 2003 and Fiona Cruickshank was named Woman Entrepreneur of the Year in the same year.

Three-quarters of the company's output comes from unlicensed medical products, made to order for doctors.
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Copyright 2005 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Publication:The Journal (Newcastle, England)
Date:Dec 23, 2005
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