The BioIndustry Association (BIA), the UK’s trade association for innovative bioscience businesses, highlighted the opportunities for jobs and growth in biopharmaceutical manufacturing as it met with UK government ministers today.

Ministers agreed to industry’s call to create a small, focussed short-life working group tasked with the development of a plan to support and develop pharmaceutical, biopharmaceutical and cell therapy manufacturing in the UK. The working group will report back to ministers in November 2013. The working group members will be drawn from companies with a UK pharmaceutical, biopharmaceutical or cell therapy manufacturing presence or a desire to create one, with representatives from large and small companies and will also include senior level representatives from all relevant government departments.

The BIA estimates that around 250 companies are actively involved in the high value biopharmaceutical manufacturing sector.

At the meeting, Steve Bates, BIA Chief Executive Officer, informed Science Minister David Willetts and Health Minister Earl Howe, that the UK biopharmaceutical manufacturing sector has a strong track record of producing medicines of the highest quality that are exported around the globe. It also has an excellent contract service sector supporting the manufacturing supply chain.

The UK pipeline of biological medicines is the second strongest in the world behind that of the US, representing about 10 per cent of the total in development globally. The successful Biomedical Catalyst fund is an excellent mechanism to enhance this pipeline of cutting edge molecules.

In the coming years as new types of medicinal products are developed the sector will grow to deliver the ability to manufacture cell therapies, tissue therapies and next generation biopharmaceuticals.

The UK also has a world-leading academic base in bioprocessing in universities including UCL, Manchester, Sheffield, Loughborough, Kent and Newcastle.

Additionally, world-class companies have significant investments in this highly skilled, specialist manufacturing sector around the UK. These include MedImmune, Eli Lilly, Eden Biodesign (a subsidiary of Actavis Inc.) and Novartis Vaccines on Merseyside, Fujifilm Diosynth Biotechnologies in Billingham, Lonza in Slough, Oxford BioMedica in Oxford, Cobra Biologics in Keele and GE in Cardiff.

And, often overlooked but also important is the fact that the UK has globally respected regulators and inspectors at the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) overseeing the quality and standards of UK output.

It is great to see this sector is supported by government through initiatives such as the new Cell Therapy Catapult in London and the plans for a National Biologics Industry Innovation Centre. When you put these elements into a supportive business environment in terms of the patent box, R&D tax credits and strong intellectual property protection, the UK has a real opportunity here. This is evidenced by GlaxoSmithKline’s announcement to invest £500 million in new biopharmaceutical manufacturing facilities in the UK as a direct result of the government’s patent box policy.

If we want to keep and attract R&D to the UK it is vital we build a strong manufacturing base to translate the pipeline of products and capture the greatest value for the UK. As manufacturing gets more complex and medicines become more personal the skill sets to develop medicines need manufacturing experience alongside clinical trials design and curing edge medicine.

To seize this exciting challenge the UK must however work to:

  • Ensure the UK remains globally competitive with other countries who offer incentives to globally mobile corporations to place advanced manufacturing in their jurisdictions
  • Inspire UK young people to understand the exciting opportunities for careers in this area and educate and train them with the skills they need
  • Sell the UK biopharmaceutical manufacturing sector story effectively to the global players making investment decisions – the UK has a proven ability to do this to time, scale and quality.
  • Challenge ourselves in the sector to innovate faster than the competition to maintain global competitiveness.