UK Pharma & Biotech Roundup: AbbVie Buys DJS; Clinical Trial Decline an ‘Existential’ Threat to British Research; MHRA Accelerated Pathway for Avrobio Gene Therapy


With the brief tenure of Liz Truss as Prime Minister already drawing to a close, the UK faces yet another new leader as the country attempts to extricate itself from the financial havoc wreaked by the Truss administration. Despite this backdrop, activity continues in the UK’s vibrant healthcare and life sciences sector, as the below selection of recent news highlights reveals.


UK biotechs enjoy best fundraising quarter of 2022 (The Pharma Letter)

In the first three quarters of the year, with investment activity accelerating in the three months leading to August 31, UK-based life sciences and biotech companies raised some £1.5 billion ($1.67 billion) in equity finance.


AbbVie to buy UK biotech DJS for $255M (BioPharmaDive)

AbbVie will buy private U.K.-based biotechnology company DJS Antibodies in a deal that gives it access to an experimental drug for an aggressive lung disease as well as technology to develop certain kinds of antibody medicines.

AbbVie will pay investors in DJS $255 million upon closing the acquisition, which was announced by the companies Thursday. DJS shareholders could receive further payments if development of the biotech’s lead drug hits certain unspecified milestones.


New industry report suggests UK clinical trial research recruitment is in massive decline (Endpoints News)

A new report is warning of a “clear and serious” and “existential” threat to the future of biotech research in the UK.

In the five-year span from 2017 to 2021, the number of patients recruited for UK clinical trials has fallen dramatically, per a report from the trade association ABPI on Thursday. The fall, representing a drop from more than 50,000 patients five years ago to about 28,200 last year, marks a 44% decline in that period.

The resulting impact is a 41% drop in the number of trials launched in Britain over the same five-year timeframe. Reuters was the first to report on ABPI’s conclusions.


UK grants that can give biotech startups a vital jump-start (

Grants are a vital lifeline that help biotech startups get off the ground, especially for underrepresented entrepreneurs. The Women in Synthetic Biology (WiSB) network recently gave detailed advice for helping U.K. biotech founders access this funding.

Women are a big source of talent in the biotech space, both in academic life sciences and in founding biotech startups. However, startup companies led by women and other underrepresented genders tend to obtain fewer investments than those led by men.


Lack of lab space is stalling UK biotech, founders say (Sifted)

Jacob Nathan’s startup, Epoch Biodesign, raised a chunky $11m seed round earlier this year. The synthetic biology company is developing plastic-eating enzymes, which could help breakdown hard-to-recycle plastics.

With the VC dollars in his pocket, Nathan had a new problem to solve: he needed a scientific lab space to rent — a task that quickly proved challenging. “There is just nowhere to go,” he says.

Epoch ended up renting a traditional office building in central London and converting it into a lab space itself. It’s a far more costly option than renting an existing lab, Nathan says, and used up a portion of the capital Epoch had raised.


UK regulator selects tiny Massachusetts biotech’s potential Gaucher gene therapy for accelerated pathway (Endpoints News)

The UK’s Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency is increasingly granting drugmakers access to its exclusive Innovative Licensing and Access Pathway, with Cambridge, MA-based Avrobio announcing Tuesday the addition of its investigational gene therapy that uses patients’ own hematopoietic stem cells to treat a rare disease.

Under the pathway, which in early 2021 began awarding so-called “passports” to the five-month, accelerated review pathway, patients could potentially gain access to rare disease treatment more quickly.

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