Making UK world leader in life sciences

CUTTING EDGE gene therapy or finding the cure for cancer may not seem to have much in common with the world of high finance.

But the two came together recently at a major conference which explored the difficult subject of how young businesses in this sector, whose products often take years to get to market, find the best form of funding to support their life changing work.

Last month we hosted the Future of Healthcare Investor conference, showcasing some of the UK’s most pioneering and inspiring life science companies.

Sign up to our Business newsletter

Sign up to our Business newsletter

Minister for Life Sciences, George Freeman MP, addressed an audience of scientists, entrepreneurs and investors. He discussed the significance of the UK in the global pharma landscape and the importance of creating stronger links between the life sciences and business community.

Large pharmaceutical companies, the likes of GlaxoSmithKline or AstraZeneca, may dominate the headlines and the attention of investors but the ground breaking work is often being done by growing and specialist firms. It is these companies that need our support if we are going to put the

UK firmly on the global pharma map.

The UK is doing well: We have strong foundations such as a world class university system; a history of supporting of innovation and some of the world’s largest pharma companies on our door step.

The Government has recognised the promise in this sector, bringing businesses and academic communities together. And, the general pace of innovation taking place amongst these companies is astounding. We’re seeing a willingness in the academic sector to set up biotech businesses and look for funding, which is fuelling stock market listings and long-term investment in small and early stage biotech companies.

In 2015, we saw £1.3bn raised in the UK-listed life science sector, ahead of 2014, itself the best year in a decade. Follow-on capital raising was a key component of that and we were encouraged to see the majority of the life science companies that floated in 2014 being able to come back and raise further capital during the course of the year. Follow-on capital, which is critical for early-stage companies, totalled £1.1bn.

Equity funding is the right sort of capital for these companies, be that angel investment, crowd-funding, venture capital, private equity or a stock market listing. We believe these firms should be spending as much as they can on Research & Development.

Amongst the business community, Enterprise Ventures, a leading provider of SME finance with its Yorkshire base in Barnsley, have been instrumental in backing Northern biotech companies and bringing them to the market. In 2015, they floated two of their biotech portfolio companies, Redx Pharma and Evgen Pharma on AIM, our world leading market for growth companies, raising £15m and £7m respectively.

The Government’s MedCity initiative has also been central to this renaissance. It was launched by the Government in 2014, linking universities, researchers, start-ups and budding companies with funding and support to turn scientific breakthroughs into commercial products.

The resurgence in life sciences is palpable across the UK. The building blocks are there and now we have the opportunity to capitalise on this progress. We need to ensure that the UK fosters the growth of its home-grown pharma businesses and retains its allure across the international life sciences community.