By Lu Rahman
In his 2021 Budget, UK Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rishi Sunak, announced a range of measures designed to benefit UK science, business and technology.
These included tax breaks for firms to designed to ‘unlock’ £20bn worth of business investment; incentives for companies to take on apprentices; allowing firms to deduct investment outlay from tax bills and business rate holidays for English companies to remain in place until June – a 75% discount will exist after that time.
Of particular interest for the drug discovery and development sector are the £22 million for a study to test the effectiveness of combinations of different COVID-19 vaccines. This will also fund what the UK government says is the world’s first study assessing the effectiveness of a third dose of vaccine to improve the response against current and future variants of COVID-19.
Also announced was a further £5 million on top of a previous £9 million investment in clinical-scale mRNA manufacturing, to create a ‘library’ of vaccines that will work against COVID-19 variants for possible rapid response deployment.
The pharma and life science sector in the UK has been a success for the economy, particularly showing its strength over the last year. The country has long been at the forefront of pharmaceutical innovation and its drug discovery and development expertise is globally recognised. With the success of the Oxford Astra Zeneca COVID-19 vaccine, the country has exhibited solid research and drug discovery ability that is hopefully benefitting the health of the humans across the world. Add to this the country’s pharmaceutical manufacturing set-up – take for example, the production of the Novovax vaccine in the North East of the UK – and it’s evident that the UK has skill, expertise and innovation in this area.
Richard Torbett, Chief Executive of the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry, said: “Pharmaceutical companies have been central to the response to the pandemic and will be central to the economic recovery. Today the Chancellor has recognised that innovative industries like ours must be at the heart of our future plans for growth.
“Enhanced capital investment rules and a consultation on how to reform R&D tax credits will help support this vision and are great steps towards attracting more cutting-edge investment to the UK. New high skilled visas and support for apprentices will also help us to attract and develop the talent of the future.
“We look forward to working with the government on these exciting opportunities for the future of British science and medicines development.”
Andrew Meade, Accenture UK&I Life Sciences lead commented: “Over the past year, the UK has emerged as a dominant player in the global life sciences industry. With the rollout of its COVID-19 vaccination programme – it is not a coincidence that two of the FTSE100’s ten most valuable companies are pharmaceutical companies. Looking to the UK’s future in a post-Brexit world, there is now potential for the UK to become the global leader for life sciences, with great economic potential for the country.”
“This Budget announcement recognises this emergent status for the UK’s life sciences industry, building on the UK’s immense intellectual property to encourage investment into the sector. In addition to the extra £1.65 billion cash injection to ensure the vaccination roll-out in England continues to be a success, the industry will welcome the £375 million UK-wide ‘Future Fund: Breakthrough’, investing in cutting-edge, innovative companies across life sciences, quantum and clean tech. Of particular note is also a £5 million investment in clinical-scale mRNA manufacturing to create a library of vaccines to combat variants of COVID-19 and enable a rapid medical response to future outbreaks of the virus.
“All of this will help build on the UK’s successful vaccine roll out and lay the foundations for the nation to be a leading light in the future of life sciences globally. There is a real opportunity to build on the unique collaboration we have seen across the industry, government and regulators in response to the pandemic to help shape the future of medicine and science in the UK”.
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