The United Kingdom: Europe's Biotechnology Hub

Nov 01, 2003

UK science expertise, backed by increased government funding, has led to a thriving bioscience industry, distinguished by the energy and creativity of its entrepreneurs." These words are not mine but those of Lord David Sainsbury, the British government's science and innovation minister. The facts more than confirm the accuracy of Lord Sainsbury's assertion.

The United Kingdom is home to the largest biotechnology industry in the world outside of the United States. The biotechnology market and related industries are currently estimated at $13 billion and include almost 300 dedicated biotechnology companies and more than 450 companies involved in bio-related activities. The British government spends nearly $1 billion annually on bioscience research, and charities such as the Wellcome Trust also provide significant funding. The pharmaceutical sector spends more than $2.7 billion per year on research and development (R&D), making it the largest user of modern biotechnology.

Furthermore, the UK is characterized by an abundance of technically qualified and highly skilled personnel in its academic institutions, industries, and hospitals, as well as excellent education and training structures to ensure that this supply of talent is ongoing. In the past 50 years, British scientists have earned more than 46 Nobel prizes, two-thirds of which were for advances in medicine, chemistry, and physiology. The UK has discovered 15 of the world's current 75 best-selling drugs, and British companies account for 62% of the products in late-stage clinical trials in Europe. The UK is home to a significant number of world-leading research institutes including the Sanger Center and the Roslin Institute; international research establishments such as the European Bioinformatics Institute; and regulatory bodies such as the European Agency for the Evaluation of Medicinal Products and the Medicines Control Agency.

The UK presently funds approximately 4.5% of the world's science, produces 8% of all scientific papers, and receives 9% of the citations - all with only 1% of the world's population. In short, British academic institutions and UK-based companies remain firmly on the frontlines of biotechnology research. They do not simply compete on a global scale; they lead the way.

The UK–US Biotech Relationship The UK's biotechnology industry is unrivalled in Europe and continues to spawn companies that rival those of the US. The biotechnology communities in the UK and US have been inextricably linked since the UK's Francis Crick and James Watson of the US demystified the double helix 50 years ago.

British and American Joint Ventures
For example, Eli Lilly plans to spend more than $350 million over the next four years to expand its UK operations. The investment includes $112 million to improve manufacturing operations in Southeast England. Eighty million dollars will support overall UK operations, including the Erl Wood research site in southeast England, where a further $64 million is committed to a neuroscience research center. An additional $72 million is dedicated to adding capacity at its Merseyside manufacturing facility, and $24 million is set aside for UK business support.

Another American biotechnology company investing in the UK is Genzyme, one of the top five biotechnology companies in the world. Genzyme has recently completed a plan that included $88 million to expand its facilities in East Anglia. Two large-scale, state-of-the-art plants were officially opened in August 2002, enabling a tenfold increase in production capacity of the active ingredients for the kidney disease drug Renagel and doubling staffing levels to more than 200.

The UK's Biotechnology "Clusters" The idea of biotechnology clusters may be valid in a country as vast as the US, but the UK is so geographically compact that, especially from the perspective of US business, it can be considered one "cluster" - one that can act as a transatlantic stepping stone into continental Europe. Within the UK cluster, there are hubs of special expertise, often growing out of the particular strengths of local universities.

Expert advice is abundantly available to help individual investors identify the right location for their business proposition. For many investors, the first port of call has been UK Trade & Investment, which provides free and confidential advice to both potential and current investors. UKT&I works closely with the government's science and technology team that has representatives based in consulates around the US. It works hand-in-glove with the 12 development agencies directly responsible for England, Northern Ireland, Scotland, and Wales.

Biomanufacturing in the UK Companies established in the UK support all aspects of biopharmaceutical production, from development and manufacturing of active ingredients, to formulation and delivery. The UK biomanufacturing marketplace is diverse and deep and includes specialist third-party contract manufacturers such as Avecia (Billingham), CAMR (Salisbury), Cobra Therapeutics (Keele), Excell Biotech (Edinburgh), and Lonza Biologics (Slough); contract testing and research organizations such as Q-One (Glasgow); and manufacturing facilities (such as PowderJect, Eli Lilly, Avecia) for vaccines and biologics. Also present are the in-house process development organizations of "big pharma" and biotechnology firms such as AstraZeneca, Celltech, Cambridge Antibody Technology, Delta Biotechnology, GlaxoSmithKline, Merck, Pfizer, and Protherics. Leading academic institutions such as University College London's Advanced Center for Biochemical Engineering, Aston Academy of Life Sciences, and the University of Cambridge support the entire sector.

An excellent example of the UK's commitment to biomanufacturing is the recent announcement of the creation of a $50 million National Biomanufacturing Center at Speke, Merseyside. The center is the first of its kind in the UK and is expected to open in 2005. It will focus on biotechnology business development and the manufacture of innovative biological medicines, including vaccines. Also, the center will provide advice, services, and trained personnel to biotechnology businesses throughout the region. Its program is designed to support start-up companies spinning out of area universities and should provide a crucial bridge between academic innovation and commercial biomanufacturing development.

lorem ipsum