UCB, Roche, and IQVIA take lead in UK life sciences investment

Pharma giant UCB is to invest around £1 billion in the UK as part of a second life sciences sector deal with the UK government, with industry names such as Roche and IQVIA also committing to projects.

The deals are part of the government’s second Life Sciences Sector Deal, with 10 companies investing in the UK and pledging to support healthcare innovation, and create high-paid, high-quality jobs as part of the government’s overarching industrial strategy.

In what was described as a vote of confidence in UK industry, Belgian pharma company UCB announced it is investing £1 billion, including a new state-of-the-art R&D facility.

UCB already has an R&D base in Slough, Berkshire and the investment over the next five years will include £150-200 million to build a new research centre nearby.

The company’s operation in Slough began life as the UK biotech Celltech, which UCB bought in 2004.

Further details will be announced if UCB finalises its search for a suitable location and when contracts have been agreed.

The facility will support around 650 jobs, and in a cross-departmental announcement the government said that the new deal will enhance the UK’s reputation for life sciences R&D.

Genomics and AI diagnosis

The deal also aims to save tens of thousands of lives through early detection of disease, using advancements in genomics and AI-powered diagnosis.

The programme – Accelerating Detection of Disease – will be led by Professor Sir John Bell and brings together the NHS, industry and leading charities including Cancer Research UK, the British Heart Foundation and Alzheimer’s Research UK. It will be the largest ever study of its kind collecting such a range of data from healthy volunteers over a number of years.

Other new announcements included a further £30 million investment in the UK by Roche, part of which is a £20 million investment in a precision cancer research partnership with the Christie NHS Foundation Trust in Manchester.

This will be focused around using big data to conduct digital clinical trials, and could make the UK a global centre for rare cancer trials, potentially benefiting around 5,000 patients annually.

IQVIA to create northern ‘Prime Site’ for R&D

Contract research and pharma data services firm IQVIA is investing £24 million, in partnership with the National Institute for Health Research in a “Prime Site” for clinical trials across the north of England.

The site will include NHS research-ready hospitals across the Greater Manchester, Leeds and Sheffield region.

IQVIA and Genomics England also announced a further £20 million partnership to enable more efficient drug research.

Autolus and four other cell therapy firms invest

There will also be more than £80 million investment from five cell and gene therapy companies.

Autolus plans to invest a further £50 million to expand in the UK, including a new global headquarters and lab in White City, London.

Oxford BioMedica, Cobra Biologics and Roslin CT are planning investments of £19 million, £8 million, and £4 million respectively to scale up operations.

US-based cancer cell therapy specialist Bellicum has committed to its first European investment in the UK, pledging to invest £2 million in a new facility, creating 20 jobs.

In a further development, the government’s Strategic Priorities Fund will give £35 million to boost medical science, including creation of a human cell atlas to better understand tissue development.

The life sciences strategy is being led by Sir John Bell and the cross-departmental Office for Life Sciences, which includes contributions from the Department of Health and Social Care and the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said: “I want the UK to have the most advanced health and care system on the planet. Technology and artificial intelligence have the potential to revolutionise healthcare by unlocking the next generation of treatments, diagnosing diseases before symptoms appear and helping patients take greater control of their own health.”

Jean-Christophe Tellier, UCB’s CEO, said: “At UCB, we are proud of our heritage in the UK and I am very pleased to announce our planned investment to support the construction of a major R&D hub in the UK, which will enable us to build upon our numerous active collaborations with UK universities, biotechs and medical research charities, and continue our successful track record of bringing innovative medicines discovered in the UK to patients globally.”



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