UK to announce funding boost for life sciences

The UK government is trying to shore up the moribund life sciences industry by investing in health mining and increasing the production of vaccines and home remedies.

Ministers are expected on Friday to unveil £150mn of funding for UK Biobank, a pioneering genomics project, to quadruple its research capacity to improve scientists’ and drugmakers’ understanding of human biology.

Biobank will build a new facility in Manchester to store its 16mn samples and upgrade its IT infrastructure, according to officials.

Medicines watchdogs have slammed the government for raising sales tax on NHS pharmaceuticals, saying it is undermining its vision for the UK to become a world leader in life sciences.

Pascal Soriot, chief executive of AstraZeneca, said in February that drugmakers should not be paid. “explosion” of NHS fundingwhen the US drug groups Eli Lilly and AbbVie withdrew from the pricing agreement with the NHS.

The announcement is part of a series of measures the government is expected to unveil on Friday to advance British life sciences.

On Thursday, industry leaders will meet with the chancellor, the science and technology secretary and the health secretary to discuss plans for the sector.

Pharmaceutical companies including AstraZeneca and Johnson and Johnson are already working with the UK Biobank to access genomic data. The government believes the new funding could also unlock up to £70mn of investment from the private sector.

Whitehall officials have said the UK is a “life science giant in every sense”, and the science and technology secretary believes the government must “reduce” this power.

“Supporting the sector through capital investment, expanding the pipeline of world-class talent and ensuring that regulation is fit for purpose is not the only way to deliver the biggest benefits for the UK – in terms of economic growth and public health,” he said.

The companies have also complained about the decline in clinical trials carried out in the NHS in the last five years, arguing that the UK is not making good use of one health system that should be easier to conduct research.

Last month, Emma Walmsley, the chief executive of GSK, called on Prime Minister Rishi Sunak to increase the company’s access to anonymous NHS patient information.

The government will unveil new ways to make it easier for drugmakers to carry out NHS trials this week, according to a person familiar with the plans.

The UK is also expected to announce on Friday a £38mn fund to boost investment in biomanufacturing to help the country deal with future emergencies.

It is also increasing funding for a program to invest in the latest vaccine and drug technologies, as well as developing the skills needed to produce high-quality products.

The announcement comes after the UK sold his vaccine manufacturing plant near Oxford to form a partnership with Catalent last year.

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