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05 Jun 2015

Johnson & Johnson is a household name and has recently cemented its major and historical presence in Leeds, with consolidated and revamped facilities in Beeston.

With 10,763 sq ft of R&D facilities, and 86,111 sq ft offices the orthopaedic research and development arm of Johnson & Johnson, DePuy Synthes has gathered all its forces onto one site.

Tom Lavery, managing director of DePuy Synthes in the UK and Ireland, recently spoke to thebusinessdesk.com and explained that the firm's history in the city goes back to 1902 with the Thackray medical business.

The Thackeray company moved to Beeston in 1957 and grew as a company, based on the sale of the hip replacement, the Charnley hip replacement - this is still used today. This began a heritage of collaboration between the medical and manufacturing industries in the city.

Mr Lavery said: "We've obviously gone on to expand across orthopaedic products, we cover A&E trauma, sports medicine and we make products for spinal care, strokes, degenerative diseases and neurological products now." - a far cry from the limited range of the firm in thr 20th century.

The histories of DePuy and Thackray in England converged when DePuy acquired Thackray to expand the orthopaedic credentials of their parent firm Corange.

In 1998 DePuy was then acquired by Johnson and Johnson to boost its own orthopaedic company, which had previously centred around knee rather than hip replacement, then merged with Swiss firm Synthes in 2012. 

"We've stayed in Leeds because of our history here, we have deep roots and a strong legacy here. With links to the academic community particularly at the University of Leeds, although they are completely independent of us we collaborate frequently on medical research.

"Mike Barker our worldwide vice president is a graduate of Leeds, and graduates from the university are located around the world.

"We have strong links with local government and local charities and are part of the community.

"We are a big company, we could put our international offices anywhere outside of US, but we chose not to, as there is a strong government-driven agenda towards the life sciences, and the government are good at retaining and encouraging life science organisations and attracting foreign investment."

Over 550 people work for DePuy in Leeds, and including their Tingley distribution centre, the firm employs 650.

"Leeds is quietly a health city. The university is orientated towards healthcare-related and medical science research, with some of the biggest teaching and research hospitals.

"Here, world renowned surgeons working across neuro spinal, knee and hip and trauma, and a lot of innovation comes from hospitals and also smaller businesses."

He said: " We need to encourage how industry works with the health system and public, and innovate in healthcare and disperse throughout the system. Thankfully the way we're set up here is unique, people see the the life sciences as a great skill set and the NHS has been a source of innovation, and seen worldwide as a great healthcare provider."

Having worked for the firm for the past 22 years, since leaving school, Mr Lavery said: "I'm passionate about the things we do, they really are life changing, the products we develop take the pain away and give people back mobility, and I think that's fundamentally different from selling photocopiers and staplers.

"Our employees have a passion for what they do and the outcomes that our products deliver across the world make it worthwhile."