Issue Date: December 12, 2011
U.K. Research Gets A Shot In The Arm
British Prime Minister David Cameron outlined his government’s strategy for the U.K.’s life sciences industry at a conference in London last week. The plan, spelled out in tworeports, includes a $282 million fund to support medical research as well as changes to the delivery of new therapies through the National Health Service.
Britain’s ambition is not just to retain a foothold but to take a bigger share of the global life sciences market, Cameron said. “I want the great discoveries of the next decade happening in British labs, the new technologies born in British start-ups,” he said. New funding will target the gap between idea generation in the lab and market investment in a new drug or technology.
With more than 4,500 companies, 165,000 employees, and $78 billion in annual revenues, the life sciences sector has been growing faster than the U.K. economy as a whole, according to the U.K. government. Still, officials acknowledge that rapid changes occurring in the industry need to be addressed.
“We need to create the right environment for scientists and business to work together and translate research into new, cutting-edge technologies and medicines,” Minister of State for Universities & Science David Willetts said. “This will boost our economy, create new jobs, and lead to better treatments for patients.”
Through its Medical Research Council, the U.K. government is also investing close to $16 million in a collaboration with AstraZeneca. Under the agreement, the U.K. drug firm will make 22 compounds available free of charge to academic researchers, who will study the compounds’ efficacy against various diseases. Separately, AstraZeneca has added $100 million to its venture capital arm, MedImmune Ventures, to invest in biopharmaceutical companies.
Leaders of U.K.-based health care, pharmaceutical, and biotechnology industry associations welcomed the strategy and initiatives. GlaxoSmithKline called the plan “a very important next step on the journey to make the U.K. the best place in the world to locate pharmaceutical investment.”
Stating its commitment to work with the government to deliver on the promises, GSK said it is “positive about Britain’s future prospects as a place to research, develop, manufacture, and commercialize our medicines.”
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