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Multimillion Pound Investment in UK Life Sciences Research and Development

Published: Wednesday, December 11, 2013
Last Updated: Wednesday, December 11, 2013
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UCB invests over £3 million in new bespoke cutting-edge robotic platform for UK R&D HQ.

UCB has today announced the successful completion of a £3.29 million investment in new, cutting-edge robotic laboratory equipment and purpose-built technology at its UK immunology research centre of excellence. The investment centres on an automated antibody discovery platform, designed and built especially for UCB by Farnborough based robotic laboratory experts company Peak Analysis & Automation Ltd (PAA).

Today, medicine discovery is a sophisticated process that integrates scientific innovation with cutting-edge technology and the new equipment enhances our search for new medicines by providing UCB with a highly automated process to effectively generate, select, produce and evaluate new human antibody-based medicines for patients. Coupling our scientists’ know-how and innovation with smart automation should shorten development life cycles and improve clinical success rates.

Today’s announcement from UCB coincides with the Prime Minister’s speech welcoming progress made in the two years since the Government’s Life Sciences Strategy was launched. The strategy acknowledged the valuable contribution the pharmaceutical industry makes to the UK and signalled the Government’s commitment to growing this sector. Without the subsequent reforms to the R&D tax credit system, announced in last year’s autumn statement, this new inward investment to the UK by UCB may not have happened.

“UCB’s decision to commission their new robotic laboratory equipment from the local Farnborough-based company PAA is a wonderful example of a UK leader in science choosing to partner with a local UK specialist company to strengthen this country’s world class science offering”, explained Sir Gerald Howarth, Member of Parliament for Aldershot. He added, “The fact that UCB had the confidence to invest in the future of their UK drug discovery research facilities provides evidence that the Government’s Life Sciences strategy is delivering on the ground results.”

With many pharmaceutical companies downsizing their UK R&D facilities and relocating to cheaper overseas locations combined with more company restructuring on the horizon, it is clearly a difficult environment for the pharmaceutical industry. However UCB’s announcement underlines the company’s ongoing commitment to pioneering scientific innovation in the UK and reinforces its position as a science skills leader.

Speaking on behalf of UCB, Dr Neil Weir, Senior Vice President of Discovery, UCB and Chair of the ABPI Innovation Board said “Some 40% of UCB’s total global research spend takes place in the UK. We choose to invest in this country because of the calibre of UK scientists, as well as the Government’s commitment to life sciences funding. This pioneering new robotic technology marks a significant step forward in our ability to develop exciting novel and effective treatments, making UCB’s UK research capabilities more competitive in the global race for drug development. He added, “Previously, UCB were effectively penalised because our R&D spend outweighed our sales to the NHS, making us ineligible for the R&D tax credit. The Government’s reforms to the tax credit will release several million pounds for UCB, which has given us the confidence to make this investment”.

Describing UCB’s decision to partner with PAA, Mike Collins, PAA’s Finance Director, explained, “Wherever possible PAA manufacture all elements of our commissions locally. We place a high value on this philosophy because of the improved control it gives us over quality and deliveries. UCB’s decision to appoint PAA for this project validates this approach and is a great example of a leading UK science organisation partnering with a leading UK robotics supplier – helping to ensure our team of computer scientists, robotic specialists, analytical chemists, physicists and electronic engineers remain in the UK”.

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