The Binding Site is at the forefront of helping the medical profession cure society’s biggest killer
To the man in the street, The Binding Site sounds like a place where they might finish books, produce ski wear or even some kind of fasteners. In reality, it’s a company based in Calthorpe Road, Edgbaston which employs 400 people who are at the cutting edge of medical research and manufacturing.
The company’s name is in fact entirely accurate, because ‘binding site’ is a biochemistry term referring to the forming of a chemical bond. Largely unknown to most Brummies, this ‘hidden gem’ specialises in researching, developing and manufacturing tests for the detection of cancers and other killer diseases. Its primary target is multiple myeloma, or bone marrow cancer. “Bone marrow cancer is a killer,” said the company’s chief executive Charles de Rohan. “Our job is to ensure that we provide the means for the earliest possible diagnosis of this and other diseases so patients can receive the correct treatment as soon as possible. Research to achieve better results, earlier is non-stop. Medicine is always improving, but there is always more to do, more challenges to face.”
The building in Edgbaston is The Binding Site’s HQ, research centre and manufacturing base, the hub of a £60 million growing global company with offices across the world from France and Germany to Dubai and Brazil. Its primary market, however, is in the US which accounts for nearly half of all business. This international success together with double-digit annual business growth has seen The Binding Site win a raft of Queen’s Awards for Enterprise.
CENTRE OF EXCELLENCE
The company started in the early 1980s as a spin-out organisation formed by Birmingham University Medical School professor Jo Bradwell and his colleagues. It now figures large as part of the city’s ever-increasing reputation as the UK’s centre of medical excellence. “We continue to have a close collaboration both with the university and the Queen Elizabeth Hospital – a number of leading professors sit on our medical advisory board,” said Charles. “We invest heavily in research and development, our R&D department comprises 70 people, most of whom originate from in and around Birmingham, although we do of course have people from the rest of the UK and overseas. All are PhD qualified. Each year, we also take 20 local students into the company on placements. Half of the 400 people who work here are manufacturing-related, and they are also very highly skilled and qualified people.”
So, how come The Binding Site isn’t better known in its home city? “It is true that we aren’t that well known to the general public,” said Charles, “but remember that we don’t sell to them. Our customers, such as labs and hospitals, know us very well indeed.” Charles and many of the staff do take part in a number of local fund-raising events such as fun runs to support charities including Birmingham-based Cure Leukaemia.
What about the company moving forward? “There are a number of great challenges to public health, and cancer is a major one,” said Charles. “Our brief is to continue to research and develop better diagnostics to help the medical profession treat the disease. “On the wider aspects of public health in general, people are living longer which is a good thing, and the challenge is how we manage this and develop ways in which we can ensure they are properly supported and looked after.”
Charles is a keen champion of Birmingham and its communities. He joined the board of Innovation Birmingham this year which recognises and helps tech and start-up businesses in the city. “This is a city of excellence, not just in medicine, but across the board. It’s a tremendous place to be, for companies and individuals and we should be shouting about that as often as we can,” he said.