10:26 AM
Dec 05, 2018
 |  BC Extra  |  Politics & Policy

U.K. unveils second life sciences deal, headlined by UCB investment

Just days ahead of a Parliamentary vote on a Brexit deal, the U.K. government announced Wednesday a second deal for life sciences that comprises mostly industry investment into the U.K. spearheaded by a £1 billion ($1.3 billion) investment by Belgian pharma UCB S.A. (Euronext:UCB) over the next five years. The £1.3 billion ($1.7 billion) deal builds on the life sciences industrial strategy announced by John Bell last year (see "Capital Call").

Under the new life sciences deal, UCB will invest up to £200 million ($256 million) to build a new global R&D hub in the U.K., although a site for the facility has not yet been finalized. UCB already has one of its two global R&D discovery centers located in Slough, U.K. UCB spokesperson Laurent Schots told BioCentury that the additional £800 million ($1 billion) represents the company’s expected R&D budget for its U.K. research facilities over the next five years. He added that UCB expects to maintain its staff of 650 employees in the U.K. over the same period, most of which are in R&D.

The largest investment by the U.K. government is up to £79 million ($101.2 million) for the Accelerating Detection of Disease program, led by Bell, who is Regius professor of medicine at the University of Oxford.

The program will build a data cohort of up to 5 million healthy participants and use artificial intelligence (AI) to support research; early diagnosis through the development of new diagnostics; prevention; and treatment across major diseases such as cancer, dementia and heart disease. The program's initial partners include the NHS, UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), unnamed industry participants and three major charities: Cancer Research UK, the British Heart Foundation and Alzheimer's Research UK.

The government also will invest £50 million ($64 million) for a digital pathology program to support early diagnosis on the NHS.

Beyond funding, the government committed to improving the speed and efficiency of clinical trials in the U.K. by establishing five centers for late-stage trials and improving access to NHS patient data sets.

The government reiterated its desire for MHRA to be an innovative regulator. The deal noted that MHRA will develop regulatory frameworks for point-of-care manufacturing of advanced therapies, as well as a regulatory pathway for genomic tests and medicines by 2021.

The government said nine other companies were investing more than £200 million ($256 million) in the U.K., including £50 million ($64 million) by CAR T company Autolus Therapeutics plc (NASDAQ:AUTL) to build a new global headquarters in London.

Announced last December, the first life sciences deal includes funding for a range of programs with nearly £500 million in government support and over £1 billion in industry investments (see "U.K. Unveils Life Sciences Sector Deal").

The deal comes as the life sciences sector has been pushing government to avoid a no-deal Brexit scenario, although Prime Minister Theresa May faces a challenge in getting her Withdrawal Agreement approved by the House of Commons. The vote is expected on Dec. 11.

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