Sunak's first budget tackles pharma R&D as well as coronavirus


In his first budget as UK chancellor, Rishi Sunak’s main focus was to prepare the country for the impact of coronavirus – but there were other pharma-friendly measures in there too.

A £30 billion package to boost the economy through the coronavirus outbreak was at the heart of this budget, with extra funding for the NHS and extended sick pay provision.

To coincide with Sunak’s budget, the Bank of England has announced an emergency cut in interest rates.

The £30 billion extra spending included £12 billion earmarked for coronavirus measures including at least £5 billion for the NHS in England and £7 billion to help businesses and workers get through the difficult weeks ahead.

Sunak made the announcement as the World Health Organisation said that coronavirus had reached pandemic status.

Aside from the headline-grabbing coronavirus funding, the budget included a commitment to “invest in ideas”, including an increase in R&D tax credits from 12% to 13%, with central government investment in R&D increasing to £22 billion a year.

The chief executive of the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI), Dr Richard Torbett, said: "Given the difficult circumstances this budget is delivered in, we’re pleased to see the chancellor’s commitment to science and research.

“Increasing science investment and raising R&D tax credits are important steps to reaching the goal of 2.4% of GDP spent on research, and will be critical to the future success of our industry.

Meanwhile the BioIndustry Association, representing smaller biotechs and life sciences companies welcomed a £200 million life sciences “scale up fund”.

The BIA’s CEO Steve Bates said that the organisation will work with the government to secure £400 million of additional private sector funding.

Bates said he hoped the move will encourage pension schemes to invest in UK life sciences and other innovative industries.

The investment will ensure continued funding of the Biomedical Catalyst, a government-backed scheme that has already helped dozens of life sciences projects get off the ground.

There will also be a Cambridge South station that will help link AstraZeneca’s new headquarters with King’s Cross, where the Francis Crick Institute is situated in the centre of London’s biotech “hub”.

Bates said: “We will continue to engage with the government and Innovate UK through the spending review process to ensure that this important R&D funding programme is refilled and supports innovative biotech companies for years to come.”