A FORMER Royal Mail sorting office in Oxford is to be given a new lease of life after being taken over by a rapidly expanding biotech company.

Oxford BioMedica has taken on the 84,000 sq ft former OxBox development at Oxford Business Park on a 15-year lease, in what is one the largest deals in Oxfordshire so far this year, according to commercial property agents VSL.

Oxford BioMedica is a leading expert in gene and cell therapies.

The sorting office, formerly known as the Oxford Mail Centre, closed its doors to its 450 workers in June 2009, moving the bulk of Royal Mail’s sorting operations from the city to Swindon.

The firm will move into the office space immediately and will also start working on a two-phase fit-out of the building, funded by its £20.5m share placing secured earlier this year.

This will see the installation of 45,000 sq ft of rooms, offices, warehousing and laboratories, with space left over for future expansion.

Once open, the facility will more than double the biotech firm’s bioprocessing capacity.

The plan is to open the new offices and warehouse by the first quarter of next year with additional suites being ready to use a year later.

Up to 100 highly skilled jobs will be created, adding to the company’s existing 400-strong workforce.

The move comes just three years after Oxford BioMedica relocated from the Oxford Science Park to its new headquarters building at Windrush Court, the former British Biotech headquarters building, which provides about 70,000 sq ft of laboratories and offices.

Oxford BioMedica also operates from Harrow House, in Transport Way, Oxford, where there are laboratories, and there is a separate manufacturing facility at Yarnton.

VSL director Andrew Lockhart said: “This is fantastic and exciting news not just for BioMedica but for Oxford as a whole.

“This facility has been vacant for almost 10 years and an investment of this scale by a local company represents a huge vote of confidence in the local economy and its burgeoning biotech sector.”

VSL has had a successful long-term relationship with BioMedica for more than 15 years and has not only identified and negotiated terms for the acquisition of new buildings but also advised on rent reviews and business rates appeals to manage costs.

Oxford BioMedica was founded in 1995 as a spin-out from Oxford University’s Department of Biochemistry and has since developed into a leading gene and cell therapy company, as it continues to develop its LentiVector delivery platform.

Chief executive officer John Dawson said: “We are delighted to secure this new facility in Oxford for our capacity expansion programme.

“With the finances secured earlier this year, we are now able to accelerate our investment in the new facility which, once on stream, will have the capacity to meet the expected long-term demand for lentiviral vectors.”

The move is also a welcome boost for landlord DTZ Investors which refurbished the building following the departure of Royal Mail.

Christian Birrell, of DTZ Investors, said: “We took advantage of the departure of a long-standing tenant to completely repurpose the facility and are delighted it will provide an important new base to support Oxford BioMedica’s ground-breaking science and technology offering.”

Oxford BioMedica last week announced interim results for the six months ended June 30, including gross income growth of 118 per cent to £36m.

The company has been working with Novartis on a product called Kymriah, approved by the Federal and Drug Administration to treat adult patients with diffuse large B-cell lymphoma (DLBCL).

The European Commission and Health Canada also approved Novartis’ Kymriah for the treatment of children and young adults with acute lymphoblastic leukaemia.

NHS England has announced that Novartis’ Kymriah will be made available to children and young adults in England

VSL & Partners is an Oxford-based commercial property consultancy providing a wide range of office, industrial and retail services to landlords and tenants throughout Oxfordshire.

VSL was established in 2002 and now has the largest dedicated commercial property agency team in Oxford.

Other services include commercial property, lease advice, valuation, consultancy, technology company advisors and business rates appeals.

In 2017 VSL was named for the eighth year running as Oxfordshire’s best performing commercial property agency.

For more information visit the website oxfordbiomedica.co.uk