UK biotech chiefs demand govt help for sector at breaking point
A number of leading lights from the UK biotechology sector have presented the government with a dossier which they say identifies the need for “seismic” change to save and transform the industry.
The dossier, which has been signed by the 22 biotech leaders, including Sir Christopher Evans, Sir Richard Sykes and Trevor Jones, has been sent to the Prime Minister and Lord Mandelson. It contains a wide range of recommendations which are seen to be necessary for the sector’s “survival and future viability”.
Principal among these recommendations is the creation of a National Biomedical public-private partnership “that will truly galvanise the UK biotechnology sector.” This would involve the setting-up of a National BioMedical Consolidation Fund and a National Super Growth Biomedical Fund.
The dossier also calls for the creation of a co-ordinated initiative to stimulate revenues for UK medical science companies. Each fund would be backed with at least £500 million – with government and industry as equal partners.
The signatories say that “the UK biotech industry is a world leader which has pioneered some truly life changing scientific discoveries”. However, “despite this heritage, the lethal mix of weak specific industry characteristics coupled with a complete market failure as well as the unprecedented economic downturn due to the credit crunch, means that the industry has reached breaking point”.
It adds that the choices for the industry “are stark – it can continue on an indefinite downward spiral until the very real prospect of short term extinction, or, alternatively, swift and decisive action should be taken now to effect fundamental change in the sector. The report goes on to say that “clearly, the UK venture capital sector does not possess the financial firepower to tackle on its own the challenges the biotech industry is facing. Government intervention is required and it must happen soon”.
However, it notes that government support “is not being sought to prop up a struggling industry” and would be in the form of “genuine investment with a view to delivering significant financial return” to the taxpayer “whilst protecting and growing one of its most prized industries”.
If the Government “were to embrace these initiatives on the scale outlined here”, the dossier says it will effect “fundamental change in the biotech sector and enable it to create wealth, jobs and contribute towards building a truly high tech, high value economy in Britain. Only then will UK biotech finally realise its full potential on the world stage”.
By Kevin Grogan