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British biotech success is longevity confidence boost

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UK business confidence is at six-year high as biotech innovation and vaccine success dispel lockdown gloom.

Data from IHS Markit demonstrates that British business confidence for the next 12 months is at its highest level since May 2014 – a six-year high.

Longevity.Technology: There has been a global mobilisation to devise and manufacture protections and treatments, and the rapid vaccine rollout in the UK has seen more than 12 million people receive at least their first dose. Where other sectors are stagnating, biotech is going from strength to strength.

Others are also feeling more optimistic; global expenses app, ExpenseOnDemand, has published data indicating that 82% British businesses are more buoyant about 2021’s being a positive year for business that will see improvement, compared with the rest of Europe, which is only 69%.

Luke Davis, CEO of IW Capital said of the upswing: “The vaccine’s success so far is a welcomed sight for investors and businesses alike, and now with business confidence at a high and with investors looking to back British businesses … businesses want to grow and investors want to help them do that, it’s a perfect storm for rapid growth.”

Additionally, markets can take confidence from a 12% increase in new businesses starting up during 2020 (as compared with 2019) and 44% of investors seeking to back UK-based companies rather than global firms.

The UK is a hotbed of innovation; as stop-start erratic vaccine roll-outs in the Eurozone threaten to trigger divergent economic performances and possibly even a two-speed Europe, investing in British biotech, currently motoring at full-throttle, seems attractive.

Previously, UK biotech companies have found to accessing the capital needed to scale up and make their mark on the industry to be an obstacle; COVID-19 has dramatically changed that landscape, with investors keen to back the fight against coronavirus.

Are we witnessing the flowering of a British biotech renaissance? And could Brexit be helping to create opportunities for British biotech? Speaking to Longevity.Technology previously, Professor Sir John Bell, Regius Professor of Medicine at Oxford University, said that Brexit could create an opportunity for a more favourable regulatory climate which would make the UK even more attractive to the longevity research sector.

“There is one big potential benefit that could really affect things, which would be the ability for the UK to form its own regulator,” he told us. “Because some of this is going to require accelerated approvals – long-term, real-world evidence gathering in the marketplace.”

Jim Mellon agrees. He told Longevity.Technology at the end of 2019: “If we look at the UK economy, there are enormous opportunities. We are the second most prominent centre for Longevity therapies in the world behind the US … The UK Government has taken a proactive approach. Sir John Bell, professor of medicine at Oxford, has a £300 million war chest to devote to this area.”

Three of the top ten life sciences universities – Oxford, Cambridge and UCL – are in the UK, and British research accounts for 12% of all life sciences academic citations globally. 42% of UK biotech companies have been spun‑out from British academic institutions. The NHS not only drives innovation and progress, but is home to a raft of data assets that could prove invaluable to research.

Like the Gold Rush, where there is gold, there are shovels and wagons; as biotech has prospered from the hunt for a vaccine, so has ancillary research and tech development prospered, with clinical trials organisation, data processing, novel breathing treatments, new diagnostic equipment, vaccine suspension and deployment kits all progressing.

The future looks bright for British biotech, and with the APPG for Longevity pushing for developments that will establish parity in healthspan and lifespan, and ensure “five extra years of healthy, independent life by 2035”, hopefully the funding and structure will be enshrined to bring that vision to bear.

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Eleanor Garth
Deputy Editor Now a science and medicine journalist, Eleanor worked as a consultant for university spin-out companies and provided research support at Imperial College London and various London hospitals in a former life.
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