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Private sector urged to seize opportunity and back Research Council commitment to bioprocessing R&D

Private industry has been urged to join a public sector commitment to fund advanced manufacturing research and development in bioprocessing.

£9 million of funding has been committed by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) and the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) to collaborative research with industry in bioprocessing, the sector that develops the technology, techniques and processes to manufacture new medicines from biological materials.

Bioprocessing is expected to underpin half of the top 100 medicines, as measured by sales, by 2014. As an advanced manufacturing sector, it is one of the ‘value added’, knowledge-based industries that are expected to contribute to future UK economic growth, as well as helping to deliver new and effective medicines more quickly to the clinic.

The two Research Councils have committed the funding to the second phase of a BBSRC-led public–private partnership, the Bioprocessing Research Industry Club: BRIC 2. The partnership gives industry a voice in setting the strategic direction of research to ensure that outcomes from the science funded are relevant to the sector and, therefore, able to benefit the UK economy quickly.

Dr Celia Caulcott, BBSRC Director for Innovation and Skills, said: ‘We have been running the first phase of the partnership since 2005, when we committed to investing a combined total of £14M. I am proud to say we have 17 bioprocessing companies in the Club. BRIC 2 will build on early successes, but needs the commitment of both the existing and new companies in the sector.’

The first phase of BRIC has established a bioprocessing community in the UK. Twenty-five research projects have pushed forward knowledge in bioprocessing; more than 40% of the research leaders have reported new products, processes or tools and technologies arising from their projects. One important output from bioprocessing is an increase in the efficiency of the production of large molecules for biopharmaceuticals.

Dr Caulcott said: ‘BRIC research projects benefit the overall bioprocessing sector through reducing product development costs, improving the predictability of processes and helping companies to meet regulations. In addition, the member companies who contribute a relatively small amount to the research Club funding pot receive early access to these findings.’

BRIC is managed by BBSRC with support from bioProcessUK, part of the TSB-funded HealthTech and Medicines Knowledge Transfer Network. The first phase of BRIC was launched in 2005 to deliver research and training relevant to industrial bioprocessing.

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