Out-Law News 2 min. read

Government pledges additional funding for Biomedical Catalyst programme

A scheme that helps biomedical scientists to overcome a funding gap to enable them to develop their research sufficiently to attract commercial interest is to receive additional funding from the Government.

In his Spending Round announcement on Wednesday, Chancellor George Osbourne announced that part of a new £185 million pot of funds is to be allocated through the Biomedical Catalyst.

The Biomedical Catalyst is a funding programme that helps medical scientists bridge a funding gap known as the "valley of death" in order to further develop their research. The term refers to the difficulties some early stage biotech and medical technology companies have in obtaining enough finance to develop their research and development programmes to a stage where they can attract meaningful venture capital interest or license developments to a third party.

The Biomedical Catalyst was established by the Government in 2011 with an initial £180m budget. So far approximately £100m of that funding has been allocated to biomedical research projects, with a further £30m expected to be issued to researchers through the scheme in 2013-14.

However, now the Chancellor has announced that the initial £180m budget is to be topped up.

"To ensure that the UK has the facilities to develop its world class research base and meet the Government’s ambition of being the best place in the world to conduct scientific research, the Spending Round commits to: maintaining resource funding for science in cash terms at £4.6 billion in 2015-16, as well as providing additional resource funding of £185 million for the Technology Strategy Board (TSB) to support innovation, including Catapult Centres and the Biomedical Catalyst," the Chancellor's Spending Round 2013 document said.

The Chancellor also announced that the Government is to increase "science capital funding in real terms from £0.6 billion in 2012-13 to £1.1 billion in 2015-16, and in line with inflation to 2016-17".

Life sciences transactions lawyer Allistair Booth of Pinsent Masons, the law firm behind Out-Law.com, welcomed the news of additional funding for the Biomedical Catalyst.

"Grants from the Biomedical Catalyst have been transformative for the recipients and the government’s decision to continue to fund the Biomedical Catalyst and support the biotechnology sector is to be applauded," Booth said. "The news is welcomed by the biotech sector."

Steve Bates, chief executive of the BioIndustry Association, said that he is set to meet with the TSB next week to "understand the details of how this funding will be scheduled and allocated".

"The BIA is delighted that the government will continue to support the Biomedical Catalyst, one of the key measures in its Strategy for UK Life Sciences, which has been warmly received across the sector," Bates said.

Bates last month had called on the Government to "re-fill" the Biomedical Catalyst in order to satisfy "demand" for the funding. He said at the time that the scheme "has proven to be the government's most successful bio-tech initiative, is delivering jobs and growth and now needs to be secured for the future".

Last month a number of MPs, Peers and life sciences industry stakeholders also signed a letter published in The Times that called on the Government to put in place long-term funding for research and development in science.

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