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Biomedical Catalyst funding 'must continue', says BIA

UKbiotech body warns against re-appearance of funding 'valley of death'

BioIndustry Association (BIA)The UK government's Biomedical Catalyst (BMC) should be maintained or small companies may once again fall into the funding "valley of death", according to the BioIndustry Association (BIA).

The biotech trade group makes the assertion in a new report highlighting the success of the BMC programme, which is published today, just after the announcement of another £18m ($27m) in funding for a dozen new initiatives.

The BMC - unveiled in 2011 by Prime Minister David Cameron and launched in April 2012 - has awarded over £250m in grants to more than 180 projects, which has in turn prompted another £100m in private capital, says the BIA. 

Moreover, another £1bn-plus has subsequently been raised by BMC-funded companies and academics "in the form of additional private finance, grant funding, via licencing or acquisition."

The BIA has been published ahead of the UK government's 2015 spending review, which was announced by Chancellor George Osborne last month and is due to set out departmental budget cuts for the next five years when it is published in November.

The UK Treasury is asking for around £20bn in budget cuts, with cabinet ministers due to put forward proposals next month.

The BMC is a successful government policy that is underpinning the ongoing growth of the UK life sciences sector, says the BIA in the new report. 

Chief executive Steve Bates adds that it "fills a crucial structural gap … early in company development where private sector investors will not venture alone".

"If this is removed or diluted, already invested SMEs will fall again into the funding valley of death and the whole life sciences ecosystem, and UK economic growth will suffer."

The report points out that countries such as the US and Germany operate funding systems that means they are able to take new technologies closer to market, and warns that removing this early-stage funding could threaten the UK's competitiveness in life sciences.

For now the BMC is operating as usual, however, with the new awards including £5.5m for a University College London-back trial of an antibody therapy for wet age-related macular degeneration (AMD), almost £3m for a Kings College London research team developing a T cell therapy for Crohn's disease and £1.9m for Cambridge start-up MISSION Therapeutics to help it advance a first-in-class cancer therapy.

Earlier this year, the BIA unveiled an ambitious 10-year plan designed to elevate the UK into one of the world's three largest biotech clusters, saying the BMC and other initiatives such as the Catapults scheme were helping to create the environment that will allow that to occur.

Article by
Phil Taylor

10th August 2015

From: Research



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