Biomedical Catalyst funding to speed up development of new medicines and treatments

Thirty-two projects led by UK SMEs and universities will benefit from grants totalling £39m

Biomedical Catalyst grants totalling £39m have been awarded to 32 projects led by small and medium-sized businesses (SMEs) and universities. The money will be used to accelerate the development of new medicines and healthcare systems.

These are the first substantial awards made from the £180m Biomedical Catalyst, a programme of public funding jointly managed by the UK’s Technology Strategy Board (TSB) and the Medical Research Council (MRC).

The programme provides support for the best life science opportunities arising in the UK, enabling businesses and academics to speed-up the translation of scientific ideas into commercial propositions.

A digital healthcare system that will provide early diagnosis of dementia, a universal flu vaccine that could protect against all known strains of the illness, and a targeted therapy for the treatment of prostate cancer are just three innovations that will be evaluated, developed or demonstrated using the funding provided by the Biomedical Catalyst.

David Willetts, Minister for Universities and Science, said: ‘Britain is in a global race today and this £39m investment will help keep us at the very forefront of life sciences by supporting some of our most innovative SMEs and universities. It will help take excellent ideas through to market, driving growth and helping patients benefit from the very latest technologies and treatments.’

The Biomedical Catalyst’s initial funding awards, announced in August, injected nearly £10m into 14 universities and 18 SMEs. Through these new funding awards, grants totalling £29.6m have been agreed for 22 projects led by SMEs, while a further £9.5m has been awarded to ten projects led by academic institutions.

This £39m investment will keep the UK at the forefront of life sciences

The projects include:

  • IXICO will lead a collaborative project to develop a novel digital healthcare system that will enable faster, earlier and more cost-effective dementia diagnosis. Deployed in a memory clinic or a local brain health centre, it will combine computerised cognitive testing and quantitative imaging. The project aims to shorten the time to diagnosis to three months from an average of 18 months. IXICO, Cambridge Cognition and their academic partners will build and test a prototype within the NHS.
  • University of Oxford scientists will conduct human trials of a universal flu jab that could protect against all known strains of the illness, including bird and swine flu. The new vaccine aims to target molecules inside the virus that are common to all strains.
  • Immunocore will take forward the clinical development of a targeted therapy for prostate cancer. The company has developed a new class of biologic drug that recognises changes within cells and therefore can be used to treat diseases – such as prostate cancer – that are not currently amenable to targeted biological therapies.

  • Pharminox has been offered a grant of just under £0.5m to accelerate progress on its PMX 700 programme, which aims to develop new treatments for glioblastoma multiforme (GBM), the most common and aggressive form of brain cancer.

  • Modern Biosciences will receive a grant of up to £1.6m to support its leading anti-inflammatory programme, OsteoRx, which aims to develop a new treatment for rheumatoid arthritis.
  • PsiOxus Therapeutics, a development stage biotechnology company, has received £1.7m to initiate a Phase I/II clinical trial to assess the use of ColoAd1 in the treatment of platinum-resistant, recurrent ovarian cancer. The OCTAVE (Ovarian Cancer Treated with AdenoVirus) study will be the second clinical trial of the systemically available oncolytic vaccine ColoAd1, which is a highly potent, broad-spectrum, anticancer therapeutic capable of destroying tumour cells at minute concentrations.

The Bioindustry Association (BIA), which represents the UK biotech sector, welcomed the announcement of the grant awards. BIA chief executive Steve Bates said the funding is a ‘very welcome boost for UK bioscience’, a key UK export sector.

‘It's great that the UK's excellence in medical research can now move closer to becoming therapies for patients,’ he said.

‘I encourage all UK based bioscience companies to consider applying for the next round.’

Companies