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Jan 15, 2012 (Vol. 32, No. 2)

U.K. Works to Keep Its Edge

  • 2011 was a tough year for the U.K.’s biotech industry, especially with several big pharma closures. The good news is that there is new growth in development and manufacturing of biotherapeutics.

    Pfizer and Novartis may have shut down their U.K. sites, but as the saying goes, when one door closes another opens. GlaxoSmithKline is evaluating putting a significant biomanufacturing site in the U.K., and Lonza, Fujifilm Diosynth Biotechnologies, and Eden BioDesign are all increasing their capacity in the U.K.

    The recent “bioProcessUK” conference brought a cross section of the U.K.’s biotech industry together to reveal even more hope for the future. “This year we estimate at least 500 new jobs have been created in bioprocessing,” stated Mark Bustard, Ph.D., head of bioProcessUK at the HealthTech and Medicines Knowledge Transfer Network, a U.K. government initiative.

    “Our current government is recognizing that we have to encourage new types of industry. So it’s investing in bioprocess manufacturing with Technology Strategy Board funding of £8.5 million to fund regenerative medicine projects alone.”

    The U.K. is also showing a strong pipeline for biopharmaceutical development. According to Dr. Bustard, the U.K. has at least 205 innovative medicines in development with companies such as Reneuron making good progress with its cellular therapy to treat stroke patients.

  • Intent on shepherding more biopharma companies to market and keeping them growing, Prime Minister David Cameron recently unveiled a “Strategy for U.K. Life Sciences”. The strategy calls for the U.K. to:

    • Launch a £180 million ($278.6 million) Biomedical Catalyst Fund to be overseen by the Medical Research Council (MRC) and TSB. The fund is designed to help startups navigate the “valley of death” between the development of a new drug in the laboratory and the point when it comes to market.
    • Spend £130 million ($201.2 million) toward personalized or “stratified” medicine research.
    • Create a £50 million ($77.4 million) cell therapy technology innovation center to exploit the promising technology commercially, by spending £10 million ($15.5 million) a year over each of the next five years.

    For a full analysis of this strategy, click here.

  • Capacity

    Having bioprocessing capacity is vital to being able to keep pace with demand for antibody therapies—and, in the future, cell therapies.

    “The total global demand for monoclonal antibody products was approximately 8 metric tons in 2010, which we expect to grow to approximately 13.4 metric tons by 2016,” said Howard L. Levine, Ph.D., president and principal consultant at BioProcess Technology Consultants.

    “Demand for the top five selling monoclonal antibody products will range from one to two metric tons each, helping to drive an approximately twofold increase in demand for cell culture capacity between now and 2016.

    “Globally, the industry-wide utilization of cell culture manufacturing capacity will increase from around 50 percent to nearly 64 percent. However, with approximately 75 percent of the total global bioprocessing capacity controlled by ten companies, those companies without it may find access to it difficult in the future, resulting in the need for additional manufacturing capacity.”

    Dr. Levine believes that the development of newer, more potent product types such as antibody drug conjugates (ADCs), which require less antibody concentration per dose, may lower the demand for mammalian cell culture capacity, as these products will require smaller facilities to produce.

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