The investment includes £25.9 million from Round 3 of the Biomedical Catalyst – a programme of public funding jointly managed by the Medical Research Council (MRC) and the Technology Strategy Board. Five universities and 29 companies will receive investment from the Catalyst.
One of the academic-led projects will see University of Newcastle use £1 million of MRC funding for a clinical trial to find out whether a drug developed to treat cancer can be repurposed to treat rheumatoid arthritis (RA) in patients who do not respond to existing treatments. The drug works by targeting a different type of cell from conventional therapies and could therefore succeed where conventional treatments have failed. The drug is being developed by Cyclacel Pharmaceuticals, a University of Dundee spin-out that has received two previous rounds of Biomedical Catalyst funding.
Another project led by The University of Manchester will use a £450,000 MRC grant to develop and test a smartphone app to deliver cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) to people who have experienced a first episode of psychosis. If successful in patient trials, the Actissist app could help patients manage their condition more independently and prevent relapses of psychosis that often require unplanned admission to hospital. This would also lead to significant cost savings for the NHS.
As part of the recent Government’s Spending Review in June 2013, it was announced that there will be additional support for the Catalyst. Academic researchers and businesses can continue to apply for additional funding through the MRC and the Technology Strategy Board in Round 4 of the Biomedical Catalyst, which is now open.
In a further boost to the biomedical industry, a new £38 million National Biologics Manufacturing Centre (NBMC) will be based in Darlington. The centre, funded through investment announced as part of the life sciences strategy, will be a national base for the manufacturing of biological medicines such as antibodies and vaccines.
To complete the package of support, a further £29.3 million of investment in healthcare innovation has been announced through three Technology Strategy Board-led funding competitions. These will support businesses in areas such as stratified medicine and regenerative medicine.
Announcing the package of investment, Universities and Science Minister David Willetts said:
“By investing in new technologies now we are maintaining the UK’s position as a world leader for innovation. The biomedical industry is a fast moving, high growth sector and the Catalyst has proven to be extremely successful in supporting new business ideas. This investment further drives forward our life sciences strategy.
“The new National Biologics Manufacturing Centre will significantly increase the UK’s manufacturing capability in biologics, keeping us ahead in the global race and strengthening the UK’s position as the location of choice for life sciences companies.”
Professor Sir John Savill, Chief Executive of the MRC, said:
“Several of the MRC and Technology Strategy Board awards announced today build on previous MRC funding and this research is now reaching an exciting stage of clinical development. It’s fantastic to see this investment beginning to bear fruit. It clearly demonstrates that the Biomedical Catalyst is fulfilling its goal of providing seamless support from early research in universities through to commercialisation by small and medium-sized companies. We look forward to continuing our successful collaboration with the Technology Strategy Board into round 4 and beyond.”
Chief Executive of the Technology Strategy Board, Iain Gray said:
“The Biomedical Catalyst programme has already proved a significant success, providing the support companies need to develop their innovations and solve healthcare challenges.
“The projects funded through this latest round of the programme demonstrate both the innovative nature of the UK’s health R&D sector and the success of the programme in identifying projects with strong commercial potential.”