THE largest employer in Witney is set to increase its workforce by 10 per cent as it gears up for the launch of a new product that could improve the lives of millions of diabetes sufferers.
Abbott Diabetes Care is recruiting up to 60 more staff to help with the roll-out of the FreeStyle Libre System, which promises to eliminate the need for the finger-pricking tests that plague the lives of patients.
New clean rooms, with strict controls of temperature and humidity, are being prepared at the company's Range Road plant, with the mini-machine now undergoing final tests.
Witney site director Pat Cole said: “It’s an incredibly exciting time to be working for Abbott and it’s great to work in a job in which we all feel we’re being of some use, knowing we’re helping people.
“Most of us know someone, or are related to someone, with diabetes – I have a niece with the condition.”
She added: “I left school when I was 16 and this company has offered me opportunities that I never thought I would be offered.”
Scientist Jared Watkin, head of research and development, was a member of the team that developed the new device.
He said: “This system is designed to allow people to confidently take charge of their diabetes and overcome many of the barriers to optimal diabetes management.”
The FreeStyle Libre is a sensor about the size of a 2p piece, worn under the arm, which constantly monitors glucose levels and displays results on a hand-held reader. It also stores the information for up to 14 days before the data can be downloaded to provide historical information that could help doctors to save lives.
The company is part of American pharmaceutical and medical giant Abbott which employs 69,000 people worldwide, with 600 in Witney.
Its association with Oxfordshire dates back to 1989, when it acquired Medisense, then based in Abingdon.
Medisense worked closely with scientists at Oxford University to develop a diabetes test kit, known as a pen.
Currently there are more than three million people in England living with the condition and diagnosis of diabetes increased by 38 per cent between 2001 and 2013.
Ms Cole said that all new recruits to the workforce would receive full training at the plant, which operates 24 hours a day, five days a week.
The company has also introduced an 18-month graduate management training scheme at the Witney site, taking on two graduates a year to work for six months on the floor; six in engineering and six in quality control.
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