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 startups 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 fueled
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."
"The Big E" at Eisai’s European headquarters: The European Knowledge Center
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
Dr. Keith Martin, CEO, Apitope
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.
Country Report: India,
Pharmaceutical Executive, September 2011, Volume 31, Number 9: The correct spelling of the President of Manufacturing, Life Sciences and Energy at
Tata Consulting Services is Debashis Ghosh.
Country Report: Russia,
Pharmaceutical Executive, November 2011, Volume 31, Number 11: The correct spelling of the President of AztraZeneca Russia is Nenad Pavletic.