The UK has Europe’s highest number of drug products at the clinical or preclinical development stage, according to a report published by the UK BioIndustry Association (BIA). Most notably, the UK boasts 351 preclinical products and 15 phase III products, which, if successful, can be made available in a wide range of countries.
UK biotech company IPOs earned more than twice as much in 2017 (£234m) than they did in 2016 (£105mn), according to the report. In addition, biotech companies attracted £515m in venture capital funds and £452m in follow-on funding.
This growth is especially impressive given the political climate of 2017, which included a snap election in June and ongoing Brexit negotiations throughout the year. While the shadow of Brexit is a concern for many sectors across the UK, BIA CEO Steve Bates said: “Brexit will not affect the fantastic science coming out of the UK and new sources of funding for the sector.”
Indeed, the UK has continued to refine a successful formula for the expansion of its biotech sector. In a similar manner to Boston and San Francisco – the world’s leading biotechnology hubs – the UK has sought to promote its world-class educational institutions and generous government funding as a winning combination for biotech investors.
“The life sciences [sector] was the first to receive a public statement from a government minister on our Brexit concerns,” said Mr Bates. In recent years, the UK government has also instituted advantageous tax schemes for biotech investors, including R&D tax credits and the launching of a government-backed partnership, known as the Biomedical Catalyst. Mr Bates believes, these policies are “a crucial factor [in] influencing companies’ decisions to invest here”.
While the UK has solidified its position as Europe’s biotech hub, there is still room to grow. The UK biotech cluster is poised to expand and close the gap with its global rivals. In December 2017, an unnamed US-based life sciences fund announced plans to invest $1bn in the UK biotech industry, according to the Financial Times.
“It is very encouraging to see that UK biotech companies are scaling and maturing at pace,” said Mr Bates. “The variety of funding options open to [companies] means we can build the third global cluster in bioscience in the UK.”