Bioscience is booming in the East of England
The biotechnology industry is worth billions of pounds to the East of England and employs thousands of people however experts suggest this is only the tip of the ice berg and the best is yet to come. So what has prompted this predicted flurry of activity.
Cambridge has welcomed a very healthy life science cluster into its area which features 750 companies, who in turn employ 15,000 people and this figure is predicted to keep growing. Dr Andy Richards, was one of the first people to look into the opportunities of bioscience in the city during the 1980s. He is very optimistic that the current cluster in Cambridge can become very large and be on par with the world’s premier cluster which is based in Boston in the US.
“With the likes of AstraZeneca moving here, with the new injection of capital that’s coming from the venture capital world, it could be very large.”
“I think one could be talking three, four, five times what it is now over the next few years. Certainly the opportunity market wise is there, if the capital is there, the ideas are there.”
Norwich and Cambridge have already become international hubs and great strides are being taken in the sectors of bioscience and life science.
The Norwich research park keeps continuously growing and has become one of the most important scientific clusters in Europe. It was also announced that it would receive £26 million in government investment as well.
A third of the UK life science organisations are based in the east of England, with a turnover believed to be in the range of £8 and £10 billion. With these organisations the main area of their expertises include; cancers, vaccines, antibodies and stem cell research. With the big players in Cambridge being Abcam and MedImmune.
Dr Richards suggests that Cambridge has been helped by having a world class university, with a number of young entrepreneurs and local investors sticking around the city.
“One of the great things to see was how people who succeeded decided not to go and live on a tropical island, but to stay and do their second, third, fourth or fifth company,” said Dr Richards.
“That recycling of capital is very healthy in a cluster.”
But future growth has its challenges.
“I think there are real infrastructure challenges in Cambridge,” he added.
“I think it’s very important to UK PLC we get this right and I’d really like to see a long-term investment of infrastructure that works for both the people and the potential growth of the cluster.”
Recently AstraZeneca decided to move its research centre and global headquarters to Cambridge and this has created a real buzz around the sector. The diggers have already begun to build the Cambridge Bioscience Campus, which will be situated near Addenbrooke’s Hopsital. This is where AstraZeneca will be based and it is very close to other research organisations such as the Laboratory of Molecular Research and Cancer Research UK.
“The really interesting thing going forward are that while it was all originally from molecular biology, it’s now being driven from patients side of things which I think is very good,” said Dr Richards.
“Bringing the hospital in as a leading world research hospital is very important, it’s no accident that AstraZeneca have decided to locate so close to patients.”
Elsewhere in Cambridge the money is pouring in. The Babraham Research Campus is home to 50 biomedicial start-ups, the government has also put £50 million into this campus over the past few years to help it develop.
“Companies are extraordinarily keen to come to Babraham. They want to come to the Cambridge region obviously, but they want the access to the academic research in the Babraham Institute and to be part of a vibrant start-up community.” Derek Jones, chief executive of Babraham Bioscience Technologies.
Elsewhere in the region, the Stevenage Bioscience catalyst opened two years ago and is situated in close proximity to GlaxoSmithKlines’s giant research HQ. The Catalyst is also home to 40 organisations as well.
Peptinnovate is one of the organisations that are based in the Catalyst and taking advantage of GlaxoSmithKline being so close. Peptinnovate develop anti-inflammatory medicines, in which they hope will replace steroids which have nasty side effects.
“Here, we’re right next door to the world’s leading anti-inflammatory research centre,” said Dr Andrew Lightfoot
“We can collaborate on a day-to-day basis with the scientists at GlaxoSmithkline, and that will help to progress our medicines through to the market.”
With all that’s going on in the East of England it is very clear to see that their is still a large amount of growth expected over the coming years, with the only cause for concern being is there going to be enough space to facilitate this.
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