UK biopharmaceuticals sector receives £6.5m in funding

Projects aim to deliver commercially important results

More than £6m of funding has been awarded to enhance the development of biopharmaceuticals in the UK.

In total £6.5m will fund 12 projects to deliver commercially important results, such as industrial-scale production of antibodies, stem cell preservation at room temperature, biopharmaceutical production using microbes and commercial scale stem cell therapy.

The funding is the second round of awards from Phase 2 of the Bioprocessing Research Industry Club (BRIC), a partnership between the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), a consortium of leading companies and the HealthTech and Medicines Knowledge Transfer Network.

The new research will take place at nine UK universities. Priority areas include bioprocessing for protein products and their host cell producers, high-throughput bioprocess development, effective modelling of whole bioprocesses, robust and effective analytics for bioprocessing and bioprocessing research for cellular products.

Dr Celia Caulcott, BBSRC Director, Innovation and Skills, said this latest investment in bioprocessing research is ‘a timely prelude to our continuing support for bioprocessing research under our Industrial Biotechnology and Bioenergy Strategy’.

In one of the projects, Dr Che Connon has received a follow-on £735,000 grant that will enable him to continue his work developing a way of transporting therapeutic stem cells in the post.

This latest investment is a timely prelude to our continuing support for bioprocessing research

Dr Connon, based at the University of Reading, used a previous BRIC grant to show that the technique, which uses a semi-permeable gel to store stem cells at room temperature, was viable. The method could make it up to 5,000 times cheaper to transport the cells by putting them in the post, instead of needing expensive resources such as liquid nitrogen. The latest funding will look at scaling the technology for industrial use.

Ten BRIC Studentships have also been funded by BBSRC to help develop the bioprocessing researchers of the future. This brings the total number of BRIC students to 28, each with a collaborating BRIC member company.

The studentships will start in the 2013/14 academic year, and last for up to four years, based at five UK universities in partnership with six collaborating companies/organisations.

Students will spend a minimum of three months in a placement with the industrial partner learning skills that they would not necessarily acquire during a standard doctoral programme.