Healing wounds is mission of growing Systagenix

A YORKSHIRE-based wound management company has created 80 jobs over the last year as it plans to save more lives by grabbing a bigger share of the US market.

Systagenix, based in Gargrave, near Skipton, was created in December 2008 when Johnson & Johnson sold its professional wound care business to private equity company One Equity Partners, for an undisclosed sum.

At the time of the sale, the Johnson & Johnson professional wound care business was generating annual net sales of around $270m.

The Gargrave site has been used for wound care since 1934, and Mark Kirkup, vice president, operations, said he hoped to save more lives by raising awareness of the need to treat wounds effectively.

Mr Kirkup said: "If your wound remains untreated there is a greater risk of amputation, which can then lead to further amputations and increasing risk of early death.

"GPs do not have an in-depth knowledge of the issues related to chronic wounds and cannot necessarily provide the most appropriate treatment.

"This leads many to use basic wound care treatment, which often only manage the symptoms and not the underlying causes."

Fifteen per cent of people suffering from diabetes will have foot ulceration. If left unhealed, 20 per cent will lose a limb. Fifty per cent of those who lose a limb will lose the other limb within three to five years. Of these, the survival rate is just 40 per cent after five years.

Since December last year, Systagenix has created 80 jobs in areas such as manufacturing, engineering, regulatory and quality assurance.

Altogether, there are around 460 staff on site, including 50 people with more than 25 years' service.

Mr Kirkup added: "The Gargrave site is a global centre of excellence for a number of functions, including research and development and the supply chain.

"We are in the process of increasing the sales force by nearly 70 per cent – a particular area of interest is the US where we will have a stronger presence in the hospital post acute market.

"So far our sales force services less than 20 per cent of the US market. By the beginning of 2010 this will be greater than 50 per cent and we anticipate strong double digit sales growth in the US year-on-year."

Mr Kirkup said that it was unlikely that the operation would ever be on the scale of the mid 1990s, when 1,100 people worked at the Gargrave site.

He said: "The types of jobs will be high skilled as we continue to develop technologies to support new products development.

"We are focusing on creating more jobs, but we must remain competitive by being efficient.

"We are looking to the long term, so the site will be competitive for the next 75 years. We already have good links with universities and regional agencies but will continue to strengthen these ties.

"Wound management is crucial because the most expensive wound is the one you don't heal. It improves the quality of people's lives and saves the health service money at a time when public spending is likely to suffer cuts.

"We are passionate about promoting Yorkshire as a hi-tech manufacturing base.

"While it's important to have services industries, Britain needs to make high quality products if the economy is to thrive."

Earlier this year, Systagenix fought off competition from more than 40 firms to win a 500,000 grant.

Systagenix will use the funding from regional development agency Yorkshire Forward to pay for 25 per cent of all costs associated with the development of its new wound care product over the next two years.

The grant will also enable the Gargrave site to build relations with other regional companies who will test and offer feedback on the product as it moves through developmental stages.

From birth as a woollen mill

The first industrial development at the site now occupied by Systagenix dates from 1780, when a woollen mill was built there.

In 1934, the Gargrave site was acquired by Johnson & Johnson. A research and development base was founded there in 1960.

In 1995, Gargrave was designated as a European Operations centre and a new technology centre opened in 2007. The following year Johnson & Johnson divested its professional wound care business, which led to the creation of Systagenix Wound Management.

Famous visitors over the years have included the Princess Royal, who visited Gargrave in November 1940.