U.K. Catalyst fund injects $70M into new generation of biotechs

The U.K. government is injecting more than $70 million to support drug and device research at 51 biotech companies. The subsidy is the latest substantial round in the U.K. government's $270 million Biomedical Catalyst fund, which offers cash awards aimed primarily at helping a new generation of biotechs to get through the Valley of Death, the early-stage research work that often finds few backers in the venture community.

This new crop of 51 companies more than doubles the total number of companies who have received assistance so far. Almost $150 million has now been distributed to 115 biotechs.

The Catalyst fund was created by the present coalition government, which has demonstrated some avid interest in reinvigorating a flagging drug development industry. The country has big R&D operations in place for GlaxoSmithKline ($GSK), AstraZeneca ($AZN) and others among the Big Pharma crowd. But after Pfizer ($PFE) announced plans to dramatically scale down work at Sandwich and some of the high-profile biotechs hit the wall about two years ago, the industry was able to garner some added support from shell-shocked members of Parliament.

The big idea here is that with some government priming, the biotech industry will be able to leverage more funds from venture groups. "The Biomedical Catalyst is successfully leveraging additional private sector investment in to UK biotech companies," asserts BioIndustry Association (BIA) chief Steve Bates. "This enables them to do more research and grow faster in a strategically vital sector for the UK economy." 

The BIA offered several examples of how it's worked:

  • BioMoti was awarded £150,000 and used the award to leverage a private seed investment round.
  • Cantab Anti-Infectives was awarded £2.3 million and has matched funding from the Celtic Pharma Holdings II fund.
  • Creabilis gained £1.4m and has leveraged additional capital to match fund this project.
  • Glide Pharma was awarded £2.3m which has been match funded with private capital from a new institutional investor.

"Investing in new ideas for technology now means that the U.K. will maintain its position as a global leader for innovation," said Universities and Science Minister David Willetts. "Through our life sciences strategy and Innovation and Research Strategy we are laying the foundations for future financial benefits in these high growth areas of technology."   

- here's the release on the new funds
- and the release from the BIA

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