UK biotech industry surges by 65%, giving hope· as Brexit looms

London and Oxbridge ‘Golden Triangle’ retains top position, hosting 1 in 3 biotechs

The number of UK  biotechs  has  increased by 65%  in the  last  three years,  according to analysis by London -based investment management firm Downing LLP.  The growth has  been  fueled  by record  levels of investment as the UK biotech industry attracted £2.2 billion in capital last  year. Will Brooks, an investment Director at Downing, commented: “Britain’s biotech sector is going through unprecedented growth, with substantial investment supporting a myriad of start-ups tackling some of the world’s most pressing healthcare challenges.  For  investors, the  sector presents the dual benefits of attractive  potential returns alongside achieving a social purpose.” The analysis of data from Companies House found that 3,456 biotechs were involved in R&D, up from 2,095 in QI 2016. The expansion represented a 65% increase in the number of biotechs in the past three years. Almost two fifths (44%) of the 3,456 active biotechs were newly formed, having been incorporated in the three years since 2016. This figure includes 127 new biotechs in the first two months of 2019 – the equivalent to three each day in January and February of this year. The growth  has  been  fuelled   by   an 85% increase in capital as the money available to biotechs grew to an unprecedented sum of £2.2 billion in 2018, almost doubling since the year before. Venture capital contributed more than half (51%) of this amount between 2016 and 2018.  These  contributions grew at a rate of 63% increasing from £681 million in 2016 to £1.1 billion in 2018.

In terms of geography, London reigned supreme, with 840 biotechs based in the capital in the first quarter of 2019. Meanwhile, the UK’s ‘golden triangle’ strengthened their position as Britain’s biotech hub. The region saw sign ificant growth as the findings revealed more than a third (34%) of British biotech businesses were based in London, Oxford and Cambridge, up for 27% at the start of 2016. Cambridge took second place with 258 biotechs in  QI  2019, compared  to Oxford’s 80 active businesses in the  first  quarter of the same year. Londo n and Oxbridge were followed by Notting ham (70), Manches ter (68), Edinburgh (48), Bristol (44), Cardiff (40), Birmingham (35) and Glasgow (34). London showed the fastest growth as the number of biotechs based in the capital more than doubled since 2016 increasing by 120% over the past three years. Meanwhile, the number of Oxford biotechs grew by 95%, compared to 83% for Bristol, 77% for Cambridge, 71% for Nottingham, 60% for Edinburgh, 59% for Birmingham, 42% for Manchester, 31% for Glasgow and just 8% for  Cardiff. The capital hosts nearly a quarter of all UK biotechs, with 23.4% of British biotechnology firms based in the populous city, compared to 18% in 2016. Further, 7.5% of biotechs were based in Cambridge, 2.3% in Oxford, 2.0% in  Nottingham and Manchester, 1.4% in Edinburgh, 1.3% in Bristol, 1.2% in Cardiff, and 1.0% in both Birmingham and Glasgow. “Healthcare investing is all about timing – using deep expertise to identify promising companies that can deliver within the desired investment window,” commented Jeremy Curnock Cook, Managing Director at BioScience Managers. “While some industries are voicing concerns about the post-Brexit outlook, we’re excited by the opportunity for the UK to become a truly international hub for the healthcare sector with an  attractive  funding  environment for  companies from all over the world.”