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BRIC awards £5 million for biological drug development

5 September 2006

Bioprocessing research in the UK has been given a £5 million boost following the announcement of the first research awards from the Bioprocessing Research Industry Club (BRIC), set up to help academia and industry better support the rapidly growing biological medicines market.

The new three-year projects at ten universities seek to improve techniques for faster and more efficient development and manufacture of biological medicines. These projects aim to improve the development and production of therapeutic proteins and vaccines and cell production for regenerative medicine. The funding has been awarded to research teams from the Universities of Bath, Birmingham, Cambridge, Durham, Kent, Manchester, Sheffield, Southampton, King’s College London and University College London.

Biological medicines, commonly termed biopharmaceuticals, account for 10 per cent of global drug sales and 30 per cent of products in the development pipeline. In 2005, the global market for biopharmaceuticals was estimated at $85 billion.

However, the efficient production of these drugs presents a challenge. To address this, the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) and the UK biopharmaceutical industry, with support from bioProcessUK, established BRIC to support research using bioprocessing - where living cells are harnessed as manufacturing units to produce biological medicines - to help overcome barriers to efficient manufacture of these new drugs.

The BRIC funding addresses the two priority areas of research in bioprocessing;  improving the biological understanding of the bioscience underpinning bioprocessing so that bioprocessing can be enhanced, and developing improved tools for bioprocessing,  to accelerate bioprocess development.

Dr John Birch, Chairman of the BRIC steering group and Chief Scientific Officer at Lonza Biologics in Slough, said: ‘The UK is a leader in bioprocessing and it is vital that the groundbreaking research being conducted in our universities is adequately funded and applied to industry needs. BRIC’s work in identifying and funding these projects will ensure that our academic capabilities are translated into real benefits, both for companies developing and manufacturing these innovative medicines and, ultimately, for patients.’

Dr Doug Yarrow, BBSRC Director of Corporate Science, said: ‘BRIC brings together the research community and industry and encourages knowledge transfer to the bioprocessing sector. By combining the highest quality industrially-relevant research with novel interdisciplinary approaches, these new projects will help ensure the UK remains a world leader in bioprocessing.’
Dr Kedar Pandya, EPSRC Life Sciences Interface Programme Manager, said: ‘The level of real engagement from industry clearly demonstrates the opportunities presented by collaborative research in bioprocessing. It is this collaborative nature, supported by the UK’s excellent engineering, physical sciences and life sciences that makes BRIC unique. We look forward to, and would like to encourage, the continued engagement of all the participating communities.’

These awards were made following the first call for proposals in September 2005. A second call for proposals will be made in October 2006.

ENDS

About BRIC

The Bioprocessing Research Industry Club (BRIC) was established in 2005 by BBSRC and EPSRC to focus on the delivery of investment into academic research in bioprocessing. Alongside BBSRC and EPSRC in BRIC are 16 industrial organisations: Antisoma, Avecia Biologics, Cambridge Antibody Technology, Centre of Excellence for Life Sciences, Cobra Biomanufacturing, Delta Biotechnology, Eden Biodesign, GlaxoSmithKline, HPA, Ipsen Limited, Lonza Biologics, Millipore, NIBSC, Pall Life Sciences, SNBTS and UCB Celltech. These organisations contribute to a joint research council-industry fund to support research projects. BRIC is managed by BBSRC, EPSRC and bioProcessUK.

About BBSRC

The Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) is the UK funding agency for research in the life sciences. Sponsored by Government, BBSRC annually invests around £380 million in a wide range of research that makes a significant contribution to the quality of life for UK citizens and supports a number of important industrial stakeholders including the agriculture, food, chemical, healthcare and pharmaceutical sectors. http://www.bbsrc.ac.uk

About EPSRC

The Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) is the UK’s main agency for funding research in engineering and the physical sciences. The EPSRC invests more than £500 million a year in research and postgraduate training, to help the nation handle the next generation of technological change. The areas covered range from information technology to structural engineering, and mathematics to materials science. This research forms the basis for future economic development in the UK and improvements for everyone’s health, lifestyle and culture. EPSRC also actively promotes public awareness of science and engineering. EPSRC works alongside other Research Councils with responsibility for other areas of research. The Research Councils work collectively on issues of common concern via Research Councils UK. http://www.epsrc.ac.uk

About bioProcessUK

bioProcessUK is the DTI-funded Knowledge Transfer Network dedicated to supporting the growth of the biopharmaceutical development and processing sector in the UK. bioProcessUK is managed as a stand-alone business unit of the BioIndustry Association (BIA). http://www.bioprocessuk.org

External contact

Robert Winder, BioIndustry Association (BIA) Press Office

tel: 020 7565 7193

Contact

Matt Goode, Head of External Relations

tel: 01793 413299

Tracey Jewitt, Media Officer

tel: 01793 414694
fax: 01793 413382