5 Exciting Life Sciences Developments Happening in the UK in 2023

6-7 Minutes

Some silly rumours are swirling about that the UK is falling short of its Life Sciences supe...

By Emily Davies

Senior Content Writer

Some silly rumours are swirling about that the UK is falling short of its Life Sciences superpowers, and I, for one, am here to lay them to rest and let you in on some honest (and exciting!) truths.

Like every Life Sciences powerhouse, the UK is honest in its struggles, such as supply chain disruptions, the race against technology, and the current skills gap. But we’re also incredibly proud of our accomplishments, and it’s time we shout about those victories too!

Since joining the Life Sciences landscape in the late 18th century, the industry has only continued to build on its history of creativity and entrepreneurship, ranking us fourth on the Global Innovation Index.

In today’s world, Life Sciences has grown to be one of the UK’s most productive and lucrative sectors, and because of our levels of innovation, dedication, and flair, talent and investors from all over the globe come flocking.

Not only that, but in the last couple of years, the government has hopped aboard our mission and set out a decade-long strategy to address public health challenges and quicken the time it takes to get treatments to patients.

So, as we welcome you back to the blog today, we want to spotlight five incredibly exciting developments happening within the UK this year…

1.    Keeping Our Genomics Crown

It’s no secret that the UK’s commitment to genomics is broader and more extensive than any other country in the world.

In fact, DNA research dates back a whole 70 years, when Francis Crick and James Watson first discovered the structure of molecules, followed by Fred Sanger, who developed the very first method of reading the sequence of biochemical letters in the 1970s.

One, two, skip a few… Did you know UK scientists led the world in reading coronavirus genomes to help identify the emergence of new viral variants?

Looking at genomics in 2023, several promising research areas are being invested in by the government. Maybe most notable is Genomics England’s initiative, in partnership with the NHS, who are shifting their focus to the future, and by that, I mean babies!

With a £105 million research programme, Genomics England will read the DNA of 100,000 newborns to detect childhood diseases.

At the moment, babies are given the classic ‘heel prick test’ when they’re a few days old. From there, biochemical analysis of the tiny blood samples detects nine possible serious conditions.

With this new research initiative, all three billion letters of a baby’s genetic code will be read so that more genetic mutations that cause rare childhood diseases can be caught and treated from birth rather than waiting four or five years for them to surface.

What’s more, Genomics England has pledged to include representative samples of the population in their studies – an issue many other Life Sciences organisations have neglected in the past.

If all goes to plan, the research programme could pave the way for full-scale neonatal screening in order to detect rare genetic conditions and solidify the UK’s #1 spot for starting and scaling genomics companies.

2.    Matchmaking with Moderna

At the end of 2022, Moderna announced that they were joining the UK’s leading pharmaceutical industry body, ABPI, to develop their long-term commitment to expanding their footprint within the UK.

Thanks to their COVID-19 jab, Moderna has already become a household name. And now, in light of their 10-year partnership with the UK, all NHS patients will have access to a UK-made supply of their Covid jabs, as well as cutting-edge vaccines for other respiratory diseases such as respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) and influenza. (As of the time of writing, both mRNA vaccines are in late-stage clinical trials with some seriously promising results!)

Continuing their research on UK soil, Moderna is set to install a state-of-the-art vaccine research, development, and manufacturing facility. That will, of course, strengthen the already vibrant UK Life Sciences ecosystem, plus create a bunch of valuable new jobs (over 150, to be precise!) for professionals within the UK.

Consider calling this development a win-win situation. That’s because not only will these endeavors benefit our Life Sciences professionals, but with the capacity to produce up to 250 million vaccines per year, it also future-proofs the UK against any potential pandemics, assuring patients will benefit from speedy access to the latest advancements in vaccine technology.

On top of all that good news, the UK Health Security Agency is working closely with Moderna to ensure early vaccine development and support the G7 mission to get from variant to vaccine in 100 days or less!

3.   GSK's Bustling Biosciences Hub

Just before the new year, global biopharma GSK announced their plans to move their headquarters back to where it all began: London.  

Doing so means that the gold-standard Big Pharma will be in neighbourly distance to their current academic partners, such as King’s College London and the Crick Institute, closer in proximity to the city’s world-class science, academic, and healthcare institutions (lending for even closer collaboration), and be nearby to London’s fast-growing Life Sciences hub (more on that below!).

The new site also provides quick transport links to GSK’s AI and machine learning hub in Kings Cross and their primary R&D campus in Stevenage, where the company is developing a new bioscience cluster.

But that’s not all… Altogether, the new site will become home to around 3,000 people, including GSK’s global leadership team and teams supporting R&D, supply chain, commercial operations, corporate functions, and ViiV healthcare – GSK’s specialist HIV business focused on ending the epidemic.

The building in question, commonly known as the Earnshaw building, is said to include accessible, inclusive, and sustainable workspaces designed with collaboration in mind and powered by technology that supports the company’s hybrid working model.

In relation to their ESG initiatives, the development is focused on minimising energy consumption, reducing CO2, and supporting health and wellbeing to help GSK reach its sustainability target of becoming net zero by 2030.

4.    Customised Cancer Treatments

If you’re not familiar with the name BioNTech, you should be!

The German biotech partnered with Pfizer to develop the world’s bestselling Covid jab after developing their world-renowned mRNA vaccine technology. Now, on their new venture, the company is headed to the UK to open an R&D centre in Cambridge, alongside a London office.

The reason for doing so lies in their newest developments: a personalised cancer vaccine tailored to each individual’s genetic code to harness patients’ immune systems to tackle their tumours. The goal is to deliver 10,000 personalised therapies to NHS patients by 2030.

If you weren’t aware, up until now, cancer has been treated with surgery (cutting out cancerous cells), radiotherapy (akin to burning cancer cells), and chemotherapy (preventing the cells from dividing by directly killing them).

Merck and Moderna had truly encouraging results in their US-based cancer vaccine trials for melanoma last year. However, more extensive trials tackling other cancers also need to take place, and with BioNTech being one of the largest mRNA companies, their trials could be a giant leap toward curing cancer!

5.    Canary Wharf To Become The Heart of UK Life Sciences

This year, Canary Wharf is set to become the beating heart of UK Life Sciences, with a 23-story building that will be entirely dedicated to Life Sciences and offer an immense range of jobs to those in the industry.

The impressive 823,000 square feet of space is set to become Europe’s largest and most technologically advanced Life Sciences facility, with the building dedicating 60% of its room to labs. This, of course, creates enormous opportunity to increase R&D within the UK and attract top talent from all over the globe.

Shobi Khan, CEO of Canary Wharf Group, who is heading up the project, comments, “We have been developing our vision for a world-class Life Sciences hub at Canary Wharf since 2019, and this is a significant milestone in our journey. This project will continue the transformation of Canary Wharf, providing a sustainable, mixed-use environment for the next generation of Life Sciences offices.”

Even more excitingly, consent has already been given to further plans in the area, delivering a total of 3.5 million square feet of Life Sciences space!

With 2023 destined to be a phenomenal year in UK Life Sciences, partner with us, and we’ll find your next exciting career move or fill your teams with the very best talent in the country – after all, that’s what we’re famous for!

You can reach out to us here. We promise to get back to you as soon as we can!

Book in a call with one of the team about your hiring needs.

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