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Advances in medicines manufacturing: one year on

Posted by: , Posted on: - Categories: Funding, ISCF

It’s about a year now since the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund medicines manufacturing challenge started to fund its first projects.  Twelve months on, great progress has been made with much more to come in 2019.

This is great news for our overall health and well-being, but also very good for business and UK plc.

Clock face image overlaid on a calendar indicating date and time

Building on solid foundations

The UK has a thriving healthcare sector in the discovery and development of new medicines, but also in manufacturing which typically generates around £10 billion to the UK economy each year.

The medicines manufacturing challenge is building on these solid foundations to make the UK one of the best places in the world to manufacture medicines.

We do this by funding new and innovative ways to make traditional medicines, while at the same time developing entirely novel manufacturing processes needed for the newest innovative therapies.

What we are investing in and why

As of January 2019, we have committed £179 million pounds of the £188 million originally pledged, supporting 230 enterprises across the whole of the UK. We’ll commit a further £5 million to new work during 2019.

By investing in medicines manufacturing we will underpin security of supply for our current portfolio of medicines while speeding up the availability of revolutionary new medicines for patients.

Our investment in digital health will optimise the use of medicines and improve healthcare delivery. The government is investing £188 million over 4 years in the areas of advanced therapies, medicines and vaccines development and manufacturing, alongside an anticipated £250 million of longer-term private funding from industry.

The fund should return a value of £1 billion to the UK economy, support high-value, highly-skilled manufacturing, and increase productivity.

These are the major initiatives we are driving forward through the medicines manufacturing challenge, all now well underway:

  • A £66 million capital investment to build and establish a UK National Vaccines Manufacturing Innovation Centre, announced in December 2018, to be based in Oxford. This will address the UK’s structural gap in late-stage vaccine manufacturing process development and emergency response in case of epidemic threats to our population
  • £13 million invested, alongside other partners, in a new Medicines Manufacturing Innovation Centre, near Glasgow, focusing on small-molecule manufacturing to deliver a significant change in UK productivity. We expect to see building start in 2020 and open in Spring 2021
  • £12 million invested to expand the scope of the unique Cell and Gene Therapy Catapult, allowing more companies to develop cell therapy products
  • Advanced Therapies Treatment Centres (ATTCs) based in hospitals across the UK will see NHS trusts working with businesses and researchers to transform the UK’s ability to develop and deliver cell and gene therapies to a large number of patients.  Advanced therapies are new and emerging medicines. They have potential uses in treating forms of blindness, cancer, heart failure, liver disease, neurological conditions and rare paediatric diseases. £21 million has now been confirmed for these ATTCs
  • Viral vector production for cell and gene therapy.  Advancing the UK’s ability to produce viral vectors, delivering genetic materials into living cells. These are used in Advanced Therapy Medicinal Product (ATMP) development and manufacture. £5.6 million was awarded to two businesses in December 2017
  • Medicines manufacturing collaborative research and development awards.  We have now invested £21.4 million in 32 projects involving 83 organisations based across the UK.  These aim to stimulate the development and implementation of innovative methods/technologies to improve the manufacture of novel medicines for human use
  • Digital Health Technology Catalyst117 projects involving 143 companies, across the UK, developing new digital technology solutions to healthcare challenges.  Advancing digital health technologies enables improved patient outcomes, improved access to healthcare, and also transform service delivery of current and new treatments.  Three rounds of funding are now committed (£30 million) and with companies, with one round still to go in 2019

laboratory worker with petrie dish in full protective clothing

De-risking novel technologies

Having spent a career in drug development and manufacturing in big pharma I know how difficult it is to get investment in innovation and I believe this challenge fund is exactly the thing that is needed to support businesses, large and small, to de-risk their investment in novel technologies.

Economic pressures drive a conservative approach to innovation in healthcare manufacturing and money is often focussed on the discovery of new medicines.

hundred of white pills on a conveyor belt

By giving medicines manufacture the focus it deserves I believe we can capture much more value for the UK economy, create jobs and improve access to medicines for patients in the UK.

It is an opportunity for me to bring an industry perspective to this government initiative making sure it is spent in areas that will really impact on jobs, growth and patient benefit.

Of course, there is much more to do.  We have committed 95% of our £188 million but there are three major areas I think we need to continue focusing on in the short, medium and long term:

  • Ensure the projects are delivered to plan
  • Make sure our major infrastructure projects are visible and accessible to everyone in the global healthcare community and get them used effectively by businesses large and small to support innovation in medicines manufacture in the UK
  • Develop the next phase of the strategy to build on the fantastic foundations we have built in the UK working towards our goal of making the UK the best place in the world to manufacture medicines

It’s going to be a fantastic challenge and I feel a real sense of pride in being involved in working with our partners to make the UK an even greater place to manufacture medicines.

Read more about this ISCF challenge and view examples of funded projects.


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