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Private sector urged to seize opportunity and back Research Council commitment to bioprocessing R&D

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25 November 2009

Private industry has today (25 November) been urged to join a public sector commitment to fund advanced manufacturing research and development in bioprocessing. £9M of funding has been committed by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) and the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) to collaborative research with industry in bioprocessing.

Bioprocessing is the sector that develops the technology, techniques and processes to manufacture new medicines from biological materials. It is expected to underpin half of the top 100 medicines, as measured by sales, by 2014. As an advanced manufacturing sector it is one of the ‘value added’, knowledge based industries that are expected to contribute to future UK economic growth as well as helping to deliver new, effective medicines more quickly to the clinic.

The two Research Councils have committed the funding to the second phase of a BBSRC-led public-private partnership – the Bioprocessing Research Industry Club: BRIC 2. The partnership gives industry a voice in setting the strategic direction of research to ensure that outcomes from the science funded is relevant to the sector and therefore able to benefit the UK economy quickly.

Minister for Science and Innovation, Lord Drayson, said: "This funding builds an important bridge between researchers and industry to boost R&D in bioprocessing and its potential to develop new, improved medicines for patients. It's now up to the private sector to seize this opportunity."

Dr Celia Caulcott, BBSRC Director for Innovation and Skills, said: “We have been running the first phase of the partnership since 2005, when we committed to investing a combined total of £14M. I am proud to say we have 17 bioprocessing companies in the Club. BRIC 2 will build on early successes, but needs the commitment of both the existing and new companies in the sector.”

The first phase of BRIC has established a coherent bioprocessing community in the UK and has been credited with establishing new research groups and collaborations. 25 research projects have pushed forward knowledge in bioprocessing, with over 40% of the research leaders reporting new products, processes or tools and technologies arising from their projects. One significant output from bioprocessing is an increase in the efficiency of the production of large molecules for biopharmaceuticals. Currently, potentially effective large molecule drugs are not reaching patients due to high costs and inefficient production processes.

Dr Caulcott said: “BRIC research projects benefit the overall bioprocessing sector through reducing product development costs, improving the predictability of processes and helping companies to meet regulations. In addition, the member companies who contribute a relatively small amount to the research Club funding pot receive early access to these findings.”

BRIC 2 will also aim to increase the numbers of trained bioprocessing professionals at all levels. The UK bioprocessing sector critically needs these individuals and BBSRC intends to ensure young scientists are equipped with both the necessary skills and experience of working in industry.

BRIC is one of the BBSRC Research and Technology Clubs. The Clubs are supported jointly by BBSRC, other funding bodies and consortia of companies to fund high quality, innovative research in areas identified as strategically important by BBSRC and industry.

BRIC is managed by BBSRC with support from bioProcessUK, part of the TSB funded HealthTech and Medicines Knowledge Transfer Network.

ENDS

Notes to editors

The first phase of BRIC was launched in 2005 in order to deliver research and training relevant to industrial bioprocessing. Biological products are large and complex molecules that require sophisticated manufacturing methods. The development phase is slow, expensive and complicated and, since speed to market is vital, a need was identified for new tools and methods to contribute to accelerating development. BRIC was BBSRC and EPSRC’s response to this research challenge.

Company members of BRIC contributed a total of £1M to the research fund which gives them to opportunity to define priorities and criteria for funding research and early access to outcomes.

Current company members of BRIC 1 are:

  • Avacta plc
  • Avecia
  • Centre of Excellence for Life Sciences
  • Cobra Biomanufacturing
  • Eden Biodesign
  • Glycoform
  • GlaxoSmithKline
  • HPA
  • Ipsen Ltd
  • Lonza plc
  • Med Cell Ltd
  • MedImmune
  • NIBSC
  • Novozymes Delta Ltd
  • Pall Corporation
  • Stem Cell Sciences UK Ltd
  • UCB Celltech

For more information about the Bioprocessing Research Industry Club (BRIC) first and second phases please see:  http://www.bbsrc.ac.uk/business/collaborative_research/industry_clubs/bric/background.html

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 £850M a year in research and postgraduate training to help the nation handle the next generation of technological change.

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 £450M 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. BBSRC carries out its mission by funding internationally competitive research, providing training in the biosciences, fostering opportunities for knowledge transfer and innovation and promoting interaction with the public and other stakeholders on issues of scientific interest in universities, centres and institutes.

The Babraham Institute, Institute for Animal Health, Institute of Food Research, John Innes Centre and Rothamsted Research are Institutes of BBSRC. The Institutes conduct long-term, mission-oriented research using specialist facilities. They have strong interactions with industry, Government departments and other end-users of their research.

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