London is famed for its diversity and it remains a centre of the much maligned but equally critical financial services sector. While the life sciences industry has propelled towards globalisation, with increasing moves towards markets in Asia and the Southern hemisphere, the UK and London remains a centre of significant innovation for life sciences. London has developed particular strengths in the following fields: stem cells, oncology, neurology, cardiovascular, infection and drug delivery.
It is easy to see why London has become so popular with big pharma and biotechs. London is home to 28 universities, over 1,500 biomedical researchers and 15 hospital sites. This combined with an extensive base of CRO’s, phase I units, service firms and a very strong venture capital network including prevalent companies such as Atlas Ventures, Abingworth, MVM Life Science Partners and institutional investors, as well as private equity firms such as Apax Partners. Another important feature of the London biotech environment is it now accommodates many serial biotech entrepreneurs and a healthy distribution of Angel investors to get fledgling biotech companies started. All of which makes London a very attractive option to expanding companies and start-ups.
The vast, diverse population makes London an attractive location for many reasons. Firstly, this diversity of population and the National Health Service are attractive for conducting clinical trials in the UK and this has attracted many CROs such as Parexel, Covance and WWCT. Successful biotech clusters thrive by living in close proximity to larger R&D focused pharma companies. London boasts GSK, AstraZeneca, Eisai, Roche, J&J along with many others in range of the city. These environmental conditions allow for the possibility of spin-offs, spin-outs and research collaborations. Equally, it provides a talent base to populate these innovation-led companies with the very best scientists and management. London is now home to more than 800 organisations in the biotechnology/pharmaceutical field and the number continues to rise. Many Japanese pharma continue to see London as home to their European operations with Shionogi, Mitsubushi Pharma Europe, Daiichi Sankyo, Takeda and Chugai all present in the city. This coexistence has helped fuel the expansion of the industry in London.
London has a strong tradition of spin outs and technology transfer from universities. For example Imperial Innovations have helped a considerable number of companies to spin out from Imperial College London. London and UK academia continue to fall behind the US in unlocking IP in Universities, however, much is being done to try to increase the speed and success of these commercial opportunities from London Universities are still responsible for considerable breakthroughs in the market today. Companies such as Mission Therapeutics, PsiOxus and Cell Medica have all been helped to get off the ground by Imperial Innovations. Kings College London, UCL and many others have all helped companies to spin out with the help of venture capital firms and other services. Imanova is a good example of a company which has collaboratively used the capabilities of UCL, Imperial University, Kings College and MRC to bring advanced medical imaging and i-biomarker technologies to the market.
Of course there are obstacles in setting up in London, mainly finding affordable space to start up and expand. However, collaborations such as The Francis Crick Institute (opening in 2015) are providing more affordable space in central London for early stage research. The London BioScience Innovation Centre located in North London has provided over 1800m2 of lab and office space for start-up biotech companies such as GATC Biotech, Immune Targeting Systems and OctoPlus. This coupled with incentives from government has lured many companies to London. In December 2011 the UK government announced The Biomedical Catalyst fund. This is a £180m fund managed jointly by the Technology Strategy Board (TSB) and Medical Research Council (MRC). As of November 2012 the fund has backed 32 projects exceeding £63m helping to evaluate the commercial and scientific potential of early stage ideas. The UK Government has also launched their Catapult initiative which is looking at Cell Therapy and this is a major investment into Cell Therapy projects in the UK, managed from facilities within Guy’s Hospital, London.
London is also often a European market launch-pad for many US biotech companies given the infrastructure, talent, proximity to the European Medicines Agency and other significant attractions. This creates another very interesting dynamic and London and the surrounding suburbs are highly populated with life science companies. Therefore this makes the employment market in London very attractive with a wide range of jobs and opportunities in many disciplines of life sciences. Highly talented individuals are always in demand in the London biotech cluster and can find opportunities to work in start-ups, mid-sized and big pharma company environments.
Liftstream feels that the London Biotech Cluster offers an exciting opportunity for life science professionals. The infrastructure, resources and innovation on-going in the city set it apart from its competitors.
For more information about the London Biotech Cluster, please visit these websites: