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UK: Keep Calm and Carry On … Differently

01.12.2011 / Pharmaboardroom

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As the global economic roller coaster continues to unfold, governments the world over have desperately been scrambling to find the right policies that will effectively clamp on the brakes to end this unnerving joyride we have witnessed over the last few months, if not years. The frontline of this battle against economic gravity involves elaborate financial schemes to salvage countries and banks alike, but inevitably it has also meant that governments and companies have been tightening their belts to cut budgets wherever possible. In the United Kingdom, the slashing has heavily hit one of the country’s dearest public institutions, the National Health Service (NHS), which has been asked to whittle £20 billion ($31.5 billion) from its budget by 2014. While most have grudgingly accepted this reality, some still remain optimistic in these times of austerity and vow to make the best out of it. Prime Minister David Cameron falls within the group of enthusiasts and has rallied his citizens by telling them that “we will be tested. I will be tested. I’m ready for that and, so I believe, are the British people. So yes, there is a steep climb ahead. But I tell you this: The view from the summit will be worth it.”

But what exactly will be unveiled when the British arrive at the peak of their mount? When it comes to its healthcare system, the controversial 2011 Health and Social Care Bill provides concrete clues—but not quite certainties—as to where the country is headed in caring for its patients and how pharmaceutical companies will play a pivotal role in constructing a more efficient NHS. The overarching aim of this unprecedented reform is to improve patient outcomes by simplifying the organizational structure of health institutions, which presumably will bring down costs, while at the same time increasing the uptake of innovation through a new value-based pricing (VBP) scheme.

As it stands, the procurement of healthcare services in the NHS is managed by hospital and primary care trusts (PCTs) that are allocated individual budgets for a specific geographic area. Under the proposed system, this responsibility will be delegated to smaller GP consortia that will also be able to procure services from private and third-party providers in order to allow for greater competition. The proposal has been widely criticized as an attempt to privatize the entirely free NHS, to such an extent that the government had to halt its plans in order to hold a ‘listening exercise,’ after which the bill was amended to incorporate input received from all relevant stakeholders. The way forward is still under discussion.

One of the loudest voices heard during the exercise was that of innovative pharmaceutical companies who are already at odds with the NHS due to the country’s lethargic uptake of new medicines and increasingly low prices (both among the lowest in Europe), exacerbated by the alleged 85% penetration rate of generic drugs (one of the highest in the region). The industry fears that the proposed VBP system, which will replace the Pharmaceutical Price Regulation Scheme (PPRS), will further limit the reimbursement of new treatments by the NHS. Under the PPRS, “companies were allowed to include their assets as part of the calculation that determined the amount of profit they could make in the country. This was extremely valuable for the pharmaceutical companies who were conducting research in the UK because those investments were then rewarded by the commercial environment,” explains Sanofi UK general manager Steve Oldfield. Alternatively, the VBP scheme sets out to assess the value of a medicine holistically by taking into account its benefits to the patient and wider healthcare system correlated to the overall cost burden for the NHS. In theory this is meant to reward innovation and improve the uptake of new treatments, but scepticism prevails. Mark Jones, marketing company president for AstraZeneca UK, concludes that “While VBP aims to improve the valuation of new medical technologies it does nothing to address the issue of the fragmentation of the wider healthcare system. The pricing scheme will not change the fact that products will still have to go through all these layers of approval before they reach patients.”

Sir Andrew Dillon, chief executive of the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE), explains that “what the government wants to do is to make sure that the price the NHS pays for new pharmaceuticals properly reflects their value, which is an ambition that NICE shares.” As the organization responsible for evaluating whether a new drug should be reimbursed by the NHS or not, NICE can be somewhat divisive among the pharmaceutical industry. Sir Andrew counters that “while NICE is sometimes criticized for restricting access to treatments and pharmaceuticals in particular, everything NICE has done represents a net benefit to the NHS. Contrary to some beliefs, the vast majority (83%) of NICE’s recommendations are positive.” The reality is that no one is yet sure what VBP will look like nor whether it will be advantageous to the pharmaceutical industry in the long run.

Samantha Pearce, general manager of Celgene UK and Ireland, is optimistic in her interpretation of the ongoing discussions and how they will affect her company. “The reality is that the reimbursement environment in the UK will always be a challenge, but what encourages me about the VBP discussion is that the rhetoric is centred on innovation. As long as Celgene remains committed to providing truly innovative products that add value to the health of patients, then I think our aim will be parallel to that of the authorities. In our commitment to seeing this happen we are persistent and creative to engage all the relevant stakeholders that will ultimately make the decisions. It is essential for us to understand where they are coming from and vice-versa. We knew from the beginning that it would be a long journey, because the therapeutic areas that our products operate in are quite complex,” she concludes. With growth at 40% for the first half of 2011, it is quite apparent that Celgene has in fact managed to communicate and find common ground with UK health authorities.

Nonetheless, Stephen Whitehead, chief executive of the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI), has taken it upon himself to voice the industry’s concerns. “The ABPI is working closely with the government to determine how we can dramatically accelerate the uptake of innovation within the healthcare system. The government recognizes that innovation is a key part of the solution to cutting costs,” he explains. One of his main goals is to get both his members and healthcare authorities “to stop thinking about the product lifecycle as the patent lifecycle, because the real lifecycle of a product extends beyond that—closer to 40 years. The value of a medicine, starting from discovery to the point where it is replaced by something else is much greater than what is currently taken into account because medicines are typically used for about 40 years before a replacement treatment is available.”

Such a pioneering approach to appraising medicines would surely be in line with VBP’s stated goal of evaluating medicines holistically, but local managers are still weary of whether the new pricing scheme can accelerate the current evaluation process. Nick Burgin, European director of market access for Eisai, feels that “whilst VBP is an opportunity to improve access to patients for new medicines, it does have the potential to make patient access worse. It could make the process even longer than it already is and lead to a greater number of payers and decision makers having to agree on access to a single product.”

Despite the company’s concerns over the local market environment, Eisai has chosen the UK as its new European headquarters from which all other markets in the region will be centrally managed, touting the country’s talent pool and expertise as a strategic advantage. Gary Hendler, president and CEO of Eisai Europe, lays out the company’s new regional strategy that has “shifted the focus from being country-specific to becoming European-specific. Now each country operates as a business unit that reports into a single European business unit constructed by therapy area and/or business synergy. The exciting challenge for us is to bring the differences and similarities of all these countries under one Eisai European business model as opposed to a business model that is the sum of all its parts”.

Basing themselves in the UK also makes sense considering that the country has traditionally punched well above its weight within the global pharmaceutical sector, representing 10% of global R&D expenditures for the industry, as well as a hub for manufacturing. Even though one-sixth of today’s most popular prescription medicines were developed in the UK, the dilemma is now whether the country can maintain its status as a pharma powerhouse and a trendsetting market for the rest of the world. Burgin concludes that “this situation is not unique to the UK, with the increasing demands on health systems across Europe, many European countries are implementing various methods of cost containment. The question is how to retain a vibrant pharmaceutical industry in the region while at the same time making treatments affordable to the national healthcare systems that pay for the products.”

Simon Jose, general manager of GSK UK, asserts “that as long as we all play our parts and are mature about the way forward, then we will be able to fashion a more harmonized system where our resources are deployed more efficiently to improve patient outcomes.” “Fortunately, or unfortunately, the UK is leading the world in this direction, so that pharmaceutical products begin to be evaluated based on their added value to patients and healthcare systems,” states Martin Dawkins, Bayer‘s general manager in the UK. “This is a change that I foresee, and the UK will be one of the leading markets that will bring on this shift in mentality to think in terms of integrated healthcare. The focus will be on how a product will affect the greater population in terms of costs and benefits rather than only focusing on the patients that will be using the treatment directly,” he concludes.

 

THE UK STANDARD

This wouldn’t be the first time that the UK sets the standard for the global pharmaceutical industry. Historically, both companies and regulatory authorities have looked toward the British market to determine what policies were most effective to therefore enact them elsewhere. GSK‘s Jose recounts that “the UK has a disproportionate influence on the global commercial environment for the industry; 25% of world markets reference their prices to the UK, and decisions by NICE have influenced well beyond the borders of England.” A tendency to reference prices and regulation on UK practices can also been seen in the predominant role that the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) has played in pan-European regulatory initiatives. Sir Kent Woods, chief executive of the MHRA, states, “The agency has attracted an increasing amount of work on European regulatory work. The Agency does more of the decentralized procedures than any other state. Part of our growth has been drawing in work from other areas of the EU.”

Beyond regulation, “the British pharmaceutical industry has a disproportionate amount of R&D spent here. GSK alone locates around 40% of its R&D in the UK and 20% of its manufacturing, while the country only represents 4% of our sales,” says Jose. Surely it makes sense that being a British company GSK would have a top-heavy presence in the country, but many of the other European and American pharmaceutical giants have a similar story to tell—even the French. Sanofi‘s Oldfield validates their local manufacturing and R&D presence by arguing that “the quality of British industry has always been very well-regarded and continues to be so today. For example, the ‘Made in the UK’ symbol is still a solid sign of good quality around the world. Additional to that is the UK’s ability to drive quality improvement measures that continue to raise the standards of production. Another major asset that the UK offers the pharmaceutical industry is the quality of innovation not only in terms of new products, but also in operational and manufacturing processes.” Jose concludes that “there already is a strong industrial base here, but the government realizes it cannot be complacent given that other countries are creating policies to attract inward investment in this sector.”

This point has become most palpable over the last couple of years after companies such as Novartis, MSD, and Pfizer announced plans to shut down R&D and manufacturing sites in the country, representing a total loss of more than 3,000 jobs. “Given our track record in the UK, this was a very difficult decision for the company, but it was in no way a response to the quality of British science and the individuals that are available to conduct research in the country,” explains Richard Blackburn, general manager of Pfizer UK. “Rather, people should understand that our decision to exit the site was based on Pfizer‘s need to rationalize the number of therapeutic areas that we are conducting research in.” Yet, such statements have been ineffective in mollifying those who see one of the country’s greatest industries in sharp decline. “What I believe has happened is that people have interpreted changes in R&D investments as a signal that the quality and standard of British science is also changing, but I don’t think that is the case,” states Blackburn. “The UK is still a place where we conduct great R&D, and this is why we have recently established our Pain and Sensory Disorders research unit in Cambridge. The good news is that companies tend to be fairly unsentimental in terms of where they conduct their research,” which means that if the metrics improve then there is a good prospect of this continuing to take place in the UK.

Stephen Whitehead of the ABPI is convinced that, regardless of unsettling news of site closures and the uncertainty around the healthcare reforms, “the UK will always be a world leader in science and R&D policy because we have some of the best universities, some of the best pharmaceutical companies and we have strong R&D bases here for these global companies.” With academic bastions such as Oxford and Cambridge, British science has typically been regarded as authoritative on a global basis. Chief executive of the BioIndustry Association (BIA), Nigel Gaymond, adds that “looking at the long heritage of research, the number of Nobel laureates that come out of the UK for example, it is probably fair to say that the UK is one of the most productive nations when it comes to the generation of intellectual property (IP). Four of the top 10 universities in the world, around 19 of the top 100 and 30 of the top 200, are in the UK. For a relatively small country in comparison to some of the giants in the world, this represents a tremendous front of knowledge, which certainly drives us forward. Whitehead adds that as a country which disproportionately leads the industry’s R&D efforts, “the UK is very significantly exposed to global trends of the industry,” including the myriad economic pressures and the weak productivity of new drugs over the past few years. Certainly this is reflected in the generally sombre mood of Big Pharma locally, which Gaymond justifies by concluding “that in the UK in particular, we sometimes dwell too much on the negative news rather than celebrating our successes”.

 

THE DEMISE OF ANOTHER BRITISH GOLDEN AGE?

As an eminent figure of the UK’s life sciences sector, Sir Richard Sykes is arguably the man responsible for consolidating what is today GlaxoSmithKline, up until 2002 when he stepped down as chairman of the flagship British pharmaceutical company. He reminisces about the times when in the UK “companies could make as much profit on a product as they wanted as long as it was relevant to the amount the company had spent on R&D in the country. This is why many companies came and set up their facilities here, because you had a great pool of people to do the research and also had the government that provided incentives for it. You also had a great test bed in the NHS. Today most of these factors have changed so the positive environment no longer exits.” Eisai’s Nick Burgin drives this point home with the example of Japanese pharmaceutical companies that “are currently in an investment phase in which they are looking to spread their wings and invest in new markets outside of Japan. As with any investment decisions there are limited resources available to these companies, and therefore they will choose the most attractive opportunities for them. Emerging markets such as the BRIC countries are very interesting options for these companies and therefore markets in Europe must compete for these investments by sustaining an appealing environment through investment-friendly policies.”

When compared to some of its regional neighbours the UK has one of the lowest medicine expenditures as a percentage of its GDP, standing at 0.91% in 2010 compared to 1.53% in France and 1.22% in Germany. Furthermore, the NHS has gradually been spending less on medicines every year, from 12.5% of its total budget in 1999 to 9.8% in 2008, even though the institution’s total budget has been increasing to more than £120 billion ($192 billion) in 2011. This is in contrast to the fact that, following the financial services sector, the life sciences provide the greatest contribution to the UK economy, having generated a trade surplus of over £7 billion ($11 billion) in 2009.

Why then would the country become complacent about the attractiveness of its commercial environment for pharmaceutical companies? The answer is: It is not. Rather, the cost-cutting and restrictive spending is reflective of the overall economic malaise around the world and a greater need for governments to stabilize their budgets. Picture the UK government walking on a tightrope trying to balance a pole with a sluggish economy and public debt on one end, and the demands of pharmaceutical companies to improve commercial conditions on the other. The point of equilibrium is far from evident. Despite his nostalgia for better times, Sir Richard Sykes advises pharmaceutical companies “to hold their nerve. Yes, they are going through a bad period at the moment, but this is only a period after all. The industry is not in terminal decline by any stretch of the imagination.”

Quite the contrary, the government seems to have taken stock of the warning signs and has reacted by implementing a number of incentives to ensure that the UK remains a stronghold for the global pharmaceutical industry. One such initiative is the Cancer Drug Fund, whose role is to fund the use of innovative cancer treatments that have not been approved for reimbursement by NICE for not meeting cost-effective parameters. Another notable example is the Patent Box Law, currently under discussion, which would provide a preferential tax rate to companies who develop and register their intellectual property in the UK. Similarly, the government has implemented an R&D tax credit system that allows companies to obtain a tax deduction in return for R&D investments made in the country. In January 2009, the Department for Business, Innovation, and Skills (DBIS) also created the Office for Life Sciences (OLS) that dedicates itself entirely to shape a positive business environment for this strategic sector. The OLS is a collaborative effort with DBIS to align business priorities with those of the country’s healthcare.

 

RESURGENCE AT ITS BEST

There are indeed other segments of the UK pharmaceutical industry that are thriving and promise to bring back the scientific and manufacturing prestige that the country is used to. Generic manufacturers in particular are extremely pleased with the announced budget cuts for the NHS, as this means that doctors will be encouraged to prescribe generic products whenever possible. Watson Pharmaceuticals’ vice president for European generics, Anish Mehta, is confident that “one of the greatest levers that exists for cutting costs is to increase the use of generics throughout the system. Generics already save the NHS between £7 billion to £8 billion ($11 million to $12.5 billion) annually and there is still more room for greater cost savings. This is a trend that we are seeing all over the world, from the US to France and Germany. The end goal of governments is to improve the quality of healthcare by focusing more on patient outcomes and streamlining healthcare systems so that they become more efficient.” In the face of such savings, the DH went as far as proposing an automatic generic substitution scheme in January 2010, which would require pharmacists to dispense generic drugs whenever available, even when a branded prescription had been written by the doctor. To the disappointment of generics companies, the proposal was later scrapped, but business still seems to be moving full-steam.

Watson is a prime example of the rise of generic players in the country, having acquired UK-based Arrow Generics in 2009 to establish its headquarters for all markets outside of the US. Prior to the acquisition, Watson was a single-market company, whereas today it boasts a presence in 17 markets in Europe and is planning for a greater global expansion in the near future. Mehta explains, “The UK is a trendsetting market that has evolved through different healthcare models to achieve a high level of efficiency and high penetration of generics.” While some would argue that the British generics market is already saturated, Mehta believes that “the real penetration rate of generics will depend on what data you look at. Nevertheless, there are still some opportunities in drugs that are still prescribed for their brand even though a generic option is available. Undoubtedly the main growth driver in the future will come from biologic products. Watson is positioning itself to play a very important role in biosimilars in the mid to long term.” His vision also extends beyond European borders, as he expects the company to grow steadily over the next few years. “From 2004 until today, we have grown almost $3 billion in revenue and are targeted to reach $4.5 billion at the end of this year. Even as we are expanding our European presence at the moment, we are still looking to grow in other global markets. We are very interested in Latin America and also exploring opportunities in Asia Pacific.”

 

RECUPERATING BROKEN PIECES

However, it is not only the generics players that have taken advantage of changing times in the UK. As Big Pharma streamlines their operations, shedding away staff, operational sites, and niche segments, the local industry has eagerly been picking up the pieces to turn them into their own growth opportunities. With origins dating back to 1787, Martindale Pharma is a niche and specialty pharmaceutical company that was struggling to maintain its revenues just over a year ago, when in October 2010 its new chief executive officer, Richard de Souza, took the reins of the company. “My job was to figure out what the company could do better and identify through the product portfolio the therapy or business segments that we truly wanted to be a part of. These segments were selected based on whether we were already ranked No. 1 or No. 2, or if we could achieve one of those positions within a segment over the course of two years,” he says. Under this new strategy Martindale has identified five business segments—specials, critical care, ophthalmics, hospital specialty products, and addiction—where it is already leading or is soon to be.

In order to achieve such a position, the company has undergone a restructuring that included the up-skilling of its personnel, which was made possible due to the availability of pharmaceutical experts that had recently been laid off by other companies. Detailing Martindale’s strategy, de Souza sees “new product development as a key aspect to ensure the continued growth of the company well into the future, but to maintain current growth we have had to develop a very active business development culture. We have been able to better gauge demand by establishing preferred partnership status with major retail pharmacy estates so that when a patient walks into one of those pharmacies with a prescription for a special, then that order will directly come to us. Innovation and customer-centric service improvements help underpin our status as the partner of choice for many pharmacies.” This service-oriented approach includes delivering orders within 24 hours of them being placed and launching a new online platform from which a pharmacist can directly make orders. With steady growth and success in the UK the company is now looking to leverage its business model beyond its borders. “As a company, we already know how to solve some of the problems in the UK, so we are looking to transfer that knowledge to other European markets with similar needs and conditions. In 2010 Martindale only had 4% of its turnover coming from international markets. Within 12 months we have taken that up to 10%, and my goal is to reach over 20% within three years.”

In similar fashion, Alliance Pharma was created in 1996 when its founder perceived the outsourcing trend that was taking hold of the global pharmaceutical industry. Founder and chief executive officer John Dawson took advantage of the opportunity to create a company that specializes in marketing and distributing niche products. Dawson describes, “Having seen the splintering of R&D, with small biotech boutiques being set up as spinoffs of bigger pharmaceutical corporations … I realized these companies would need partners to do their marketing and distribution in the future. Our perception as a growing specialty pharmaceutical company is to exploit opportunities that do not come from our own research and development, which can relate to both mature as well as innovative products that need launching. We have seen an increasing demand for our products even in the areas that we do not promote. Many of our products are so well established that it does not even make economic sense to promote all of them. For example, we have seen growth in non-promoted products purely for demographic reasons such as a growing or aging population.” Despite Alliance’s impressive performance over the past few years, such as growth of 44% in 2009, Dawson cautions that “it is crucial, however, to keep your two feet on the ground.”

Swiss biologics specialist Lonza is also taking advantage of the current situation of the pharmaceutical industry by positioning itself as an indispensable partner in product development and manufacturing. In 1996 the company acquired Celltech Biologics based in Slough, UK, which today has become Lonza’s global center of excellence for mammalian cell cultures and is currently undergoing a £16 million ($25.3 million) renovation and expansion. “The investment will create a flexible operational infrastructure utilizing state-of-the-art equipment and technologies. The scope includes new purification and fermentation suites, new process development laboratories, a new GMP warehouse, and new office facilities,” explains Gordon Bates, head of operations of Lonza UK. He adds, “Within the context of a growing biologics sector, where many large pharmas have publicly stated that they expect 20% to 50% of new molecules to be biologics over the coming years, Lonza’s UK operations, which are solely focused around mammalian cell culture, are well positioned to support this projected growth. The UK also retains a strong position in scientific education and academic research that continues to create a great resource base and talent pool. Geographically speaking, Lonza Slough is also well positioned to support a global customer base given we are only 20 minutes away from Heathrow Airport. Overall, I think this is a very exciting time for the biotech sector in the UK at the moment.”

The enthusiasm for UK biotech is reflected in the collaborations that pharmaceutical companies are forging with small startups and academic groups. Particularly now that the industry is struggling to maintain its R&D productivity, new models of research have been emerging out of scientific centers of excellence such as the UK. “While we believe that close partnerships with academic institutions globally are important, the availability of a wide range of collaboration models and flexibility over intellectual property rights are factors that continue to make the UK academic sector an integral part of our innovation efforts,” says Bates. Deepak Khanna, MSD‘s managing director, adds, “The UK will continue to have academic partnerships because of the high-quality scientists and the high-quality work force skills that exist here, but I think we are going to see more of these collaborations and partnerships earlier on. This is part of the changing R&D model versus the traditional bricks-and-mortar R&D facilities.”

 

A SCIENTIFIC RESURGENCE

Exciting times they are indeed changing, and the UK’s historical excellence in scientific research has fashioned a multifaceted landscape of biotech spinoffs and start-ups that are leading the country’s—and the world’s—drug discovery and development front. While capital and funding is not always readily available for small biotechs, with an estimated 20% decrease in VC fund capital in 2010, a number of these small ventures have managed to prevail by innovating outside of the laboratory. Most of them have been reaching out to global pharmaceutical companies to obtain funding through drug development partnerships, but others have also found money in unusual places.

London-based Xenetic Biosciences has taken the approach of finding investors outside of the UK in order to fund its development of new-generation drugs and vaccines through its proprietary PolyXen, ImuXen, and Oncohist technology platforms. Xenetic has forged traditional partnerships with Big Pharma, such as with Baxter, however, their latest growth has mostly been fuelled by funding from unlikely partners in Russia and India. “Russian and Indian companies have proven to be more open to partnering early-stage technologies and candidates by taking the candidates into their home country so that they can then have the exclusive rights to the products in their domestic market,” says Xenetic chief executive officer Scott Maguire. “They also view our partnership as key to building a presence in their local biotech market by benefiting from our technology and learning from our research experience. While most companies in the UK are able to secure enough funding to take their products through Phase I and Phase IIa trials, when they reach Phase IIb and III they usually have to turn to the US capital markets for funding because local investors are unwilling to commit large sums of capital to expensive late-stage clinical trials,” he adds. With a product pipeline of 12 products, some already in Phase IIb trials, Maguire “hopes that Xenetic Biosciences will be able to set a new trend as an example of a funding and risk mitigation model that merges world-class science with foreign capital and clinical trials coming from countries that recognize the value of UK science.”

Generally the industry agrees that British science is among the best in the world. However, the local biotech sector is often criticized for not having generated a major biotech success story in the likes of major American companies, such as Genzyme. Nigel Gaymond of the BIA predicts that “it is unlikely that there will be any more large biotech companies such as Amgen or Genentech because Big Pharma recognizes the value in biotech and as a result biotechs are often bought out earlier. The bottom line is that things cannot be done alone anymore. Partnerships are the only way forward.” Dr. Keith Martin, chief executive of Bristol-based Apitope, goes even further by declaring that the success of local biotechs will depend entirely on the value of the products they develop and the quality of the management team with the necessary expertise to drive these products forward. “The environment is certainly difficult, but then it has always been. Biotech firms need to discover new products that address unmet needs and are clearly differentiated from products that are already available on the market or in development,” he states. Despite the fund drought for the sector, Apitope was able to raise capital during the global financial crisis of 2008–2009 to finance its development of products for rare and severe diseases, such as multiple sclerosis and factor VII intolerance for haemophilia.

The company has also struck a multi-million-pound partnership with Merck-Serono. “Many biotechs find themselves in positions where they have great technology but they do not have the expertise to develop it commercially. Apitope’s management team is outstanding in this regard and we are starting to see the benefits of it as we are driving our multiple programs forward very quickly. One of the main assets for biotech in the UK is the amount of people that have worked in Big Pharma and understand how to develop drugs. Not only do these people understand what needs to be done, but they are also deeply committed to bringing innovative products into the market,” he concludes.

 

The Word on UK Biotech

When assessing the UK’s dynamic biotech sector, general managers and investors across the board find consensus in identifying innovation and productivity emerging from academia and small start-ups.

 

 Allan Marchington, partner, Apposite Capital: “The UK market is differentiated by the number of pharmaceutical companies that are based here, not only commercially, but more importantly through research operations. This has been a major driver of the successes we have seen come out of the UK. When you couple this with some of the world’s leading universities with great science and entrepreneurial initiatives, as well as easy access to capital and capital markets, you end up with a highly competitive market. Nevertheless, the biotech sector is experiencing a very dif_ cult period right now. Capital markets are not rewarding innovation the way they should be, and this is not due to a lack of new technologies and innovation, but rather is tied to investor risk appetite and perception of limited returns linked to drug approval and market access.”

 

 Deepak Khanna, managing director, MSD UK: “That is an advantage the UK has because of the quality of the institutions that exist here. The UK will continue to have academic partnerships because of the high quality of scientists, and the high quality work force skills that exist here, but I think we are going to see more of these collaborations and partnerships earlier on. This is part of the changing R&D model, vs. the traditional bricks and mortar R&D facilities.”

 

 Harren Jhoti, president and director, Astex Pharmaceuticals: “Whether biotech will drag big pharma out of the productivity issue is still to be seen. One thing that is certain though is that innovation was hot happening within big pharma, at least not to the level that is required. Fortunately the large companies have realized that biotech is something they are now absolutely reliant upon and are increasingly viewing the biotech sector as peers rather than simple business opportunities that they can take advantage of. I am hopeful that the biotech sector will help big pharma to come out of the current slump and the data suggests that innovation does happen in small groups. If the data delivers on that trend then we can remain positive.”

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