There’s A LOT going on in the UK life sciences!

This week sees a major milestone for BELS with the Alumni Summit in Oxford at the Saïd Business School.  Part of our vision is that our talented life science expats and overseas alumni of UK institutions feel connected to the UK health and life sciences and want to stay engaged throughout their careers.  There are legions of such individuals around the globe who, with few exceptions, hold a special feeling for their roots.  The Alumni Summit is a first step in a reconnection we plan to build upon.

We have an exciting couple of days ahead of us and a fantastic programme in place chock full of leading lights, both from within the UK and from overseas.  I am particularly interested in hearing reactions from our overseas contingent to what they learn about UK developments.  And I feel certain that our overseas visitors will leave an impression on the UK contingent.  Look for a summation of the event in the near future and do check out the programme at

It has been long recognised and perhaps bemoaned that there is a historical dearth of capital available in the UK for the life sciences, especially in comparison to the US.  Things do seem to be changing however with the Government’s Catalyst funding providing a huge boost for early endeavours along with a number of other recent developments that auger well for our sector.

Returning, for instance, to the site of this week’s Summit, a new fund has been raised to the tune of north of £300 million to support tech startups looking to spin out of the University of Oxford.  Oxford Sciences Innovation is a new company that is working in partnership with the University and its commercialisation arm, Isis Innovation.  Thus, Oxford follows Cambridge (Cambridge Innovation Capital) and Imperial College (Imperial Innovations) in establishing such funds, though Oxford’s fund will be much more university centric than the other two funds which have a wider focus.  The Cambridge fund can invest in other Cambridge area opportunities while the Imperial fund also invests in opportunities arising in the Golden Triangle (Oxford, Cambridge, London).

As is his wont, the Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, also made a splash recently as he floated plans for a £10 billion fund to boost investment in the life sciences.  He called for a radical new approach to life sciences investment, which is needed if London’s capital markets are to be fully opened to the region’s biotech entrepreneurs.  The Mayor and MedCity, the capital’s version of the hugely successful Tech City, pulled together a meeting that included JP Morgan, Eli Lilly and Pfizer.  Time will tell if this can be realised, but the scale of ambition is exactly what the UK needs to play catch up with Boston, San Francisco and San Diego.

Another promising development is seen in the number of US businesses choosing to list in London rather than the US.  The Boston group, PureTech, chose to list in London because “it leads the world in the listed technology-transfer space”.  Similarly, California company Verseon shunned Nasdaq in favour of London’s AIM market, attracted by long-term investors such as Neil Woodford.  According to the UK BioIndustry Association, life science IPOs and follow-on offerings raised £1.25 billion in 2014.

The US listing process is still cumbersome and can cost 15-20 times more than a European listing.  In the UK, deal research can be carried out and AIM listing prospectuses do not have to be approved by the listing authority but by the NOMAD adviser.  Thus, the initial outlay and ongoing costs of staying listed are far more onerous in the US.  Clearly, there are still question marks on the relative values that companies can achieve on both markets, nevertheless a UK listing scenario should no longer be dismissed without some serious consideration.

Finally, I cannot end this blog without mentioning the launch in recent months of the industry-funded Early Access to Medicines Scheme (EAMS) which offers severely-ill patients the opportunity to try ground-breaking new medicines faster.  Overseen by the MHRA, and broadly similar to the FDA’s Breakthrough Therapy Designation, this scheme increases the attractiveness of the UK environment, though questions remain about the lack of central funding for the scheme with the risk being borne by companies in terms of the upfront investment necessary.

There has been a slew of other positive developments in the UK so please do check in regularly to keep abreast of our news flow.  You may want to check out these recent items:

Using its specialised commissioning prioritisation process, NHS England approves AbbVie’s Duodopa for Parkinson’s disease; A collaboration of researchers from the Universities of Oxford and Edinburgh and Imperial College London has found Gene Therapy Can Help Treat Cystic Fibrosis Patients;  UK leads EU in antibiotic diagnostics research;  Bristol-Myers Squibb’s blockbuster melanoma drug Opdivo has become the first approved PD-L1 inhibitor to launch in the UK;   Pfizer partners with NIHR to boosts UK R&D;  Hope for Alzheimer’s treatment as researchers find licensed drugs halt brain degeneration;   England first country to offer Meningitis B vacc programme;   Digital plans could see free wi-fi across NHSNew anti-malaria drug developed at Dundee University;   The surprising success of Britain’s university spin-outs Genetically engineered virus ‘cures’ patients of skin cancer;   Prostate cancer breakthrough as scientists crack genetic code behind nine in 10 tumours

There is an awful lot going on in the UK!

Best regards

Nigel Gaymond

1 thought on “There’s A LOT going on in the UK life sciences!”

  1. Pingback: UK Life Science News Q2 2015 | British Expats in Life Sciences (BELS)

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