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The UK at BIO

April 18, 2013
There are more than 400 delegates from the UK attending the 2013 BIO International Convention. These include delegates from four innovative life science companies – Abcodia, Critical Pharmaceuticals, Nanomerics, and PsiOxus Therapeutics – who won the recent UK Trade and Investment (UKTI) Innovation Competition and will showcase their technologies to an international audience in Chicago.

The UK presence at the convention will be centred on the UK pavilion (stand 4441) hosted by the BioIndustry Association (BIA) and UKTI and with 20 companies exhibiting. We invite conference attendees to visit the pavilion throughout the convention and to join our celebration of the 60th birthday of DNA on Tuesday 23 April at 5.00 pm.

Modern biotechnology started 60 years ago in the UK as a result of the discovery of the structure of DNA by Watson and Crick working at the Medical Research Council (MRC) laboratory in Cambridge.

This discovery underpins an industry – including medical biotechnology, industrial biotechnology, medical technology and pharmaceuticals – in the UK with 4,500 companies, 167,500 employees and a turnover of £50 billion. This is the largest life sciences sector in Europe and globally is second only to the US.

In the medical biotechnology segment there are:

  • 979 companies, of which 307 are developing therapeutics

  • 25,000 employees

  • 876 drugs in the pipeline - 510 of which are biologics

As well as discovering the structure of DNA scientists in the UK discovered penicillin and monoclonal antibodies, and one third of the human genome was mapped at the Wellcome Trust’s Sanger Centre. Additionally, Humira – the world’s biggest selling drug, with sales over $9 billion in 2012 – is one of many leading therapeutics discovered in the UK.

In 2015 the Francis Crick Institute, an interdisciplinary medical research institute which brings together the specialist knowledge, expertise and resources of the MRC, Cancer Research UK, the Wellcome Trust, UCL (University College London), Imperial College London and King's College London, will open its doors. The institute, the result of a £650 million investment, aims to help understand why disease develops and find new ways to prevent and treat illnesses such as cancer, heart disease and stroke, infections, and neurodegenerative diseases.

We are fortunate that the UK government is supportive of life sciences and launched a Strategy for UK Life Sciences in December 2011, which aims to provide the foundation for a successful and sustainable future for the bioscience sector in the UK.

The strategy’s most successful initiative is the £180 million Biomedical Catalyst fund, jointly managed by the MRC and the Technology Strategy Board, which aims to nurture innovative technologies from the academic or commercial sector through to a point of concept in order to attract private equity. To date more than £90 million has been allocated and this funding has successfully leveraged additional match-funding of more than £40 million private sector investment in to UK biotech companies. This funding is enabling companies to do more research and grow faster in a strategically vital sector for the UK economy.

In its December 2012 update of the Strategy for UK Life Sciences the government announced it would be establishing a National Biologics Industry Innovation Centre. This £38 million investment will be a centre to address challenges in process development and manufacturing of biologics.

Although not specifically for the life sciences sector the government has also introduced other policies to ensure the UK is a destination for inward investment:

  • Corporation tax is 24%, with a reduced rate of 20% for SMEs, and will be cut to 20% by April 2015

  • The Patent Box will allow innovative companies in the UK to benefit from a reduced corporation tax rate of 10%.

  • An above-the-line R&D tax credit of 10% for larger companies

  • SME R&D tax credit relief at 225% of costs

The UK is also home to the European Medicines Agency which is responsible for the scientific evaluation of medicines developed by pharmaceutical companies for use in the European Union. Additionally, the European Union recently adopted a Unified Patent which covers the 27 member states, and will establish the life sciences section of its Unified Patent Court in London.

Over the last year or so there have been a number of funds established to support innovative bioscience in the UK:

Johnson & Johnson has chosen London as the location for the first of its four global innovation centres and is looking forward to collaborating within the UK, which it considers to be home to one of the world’s thriving life sciences ecosystems.

With its world-leading science base, government support and a knowledgeable investor community the UK is a globally competitive location for bioscience companies. Those companies are working to develop their pipeline of innovative products to help address the needs of patients. Please drop by the UK pavilion (stand 4441) to find out more.