A report on pharmaceutical research and development has found that the UK has the strongest clinical and preclinical pipeline in Europe.

The report, released by UK industry group the BioIndustry Association (BIA) and Informa Pharma Intelligence, shows that the UK held the largest number of clinical trials in Europe in 2017, with 351 pre-clinical trials, 43 in Phase I, 70 in Phase II, and 15 in Phase III. The next highest, France, held 192 pre-clinical trials.

Some of the strength of the pipeline can be attributed to the significant amount of funding that the UK invests in early stage and translational science, the report noted.

A key finding was that in 2017 UK biotechs raised more on the public markets than through venture capital (VC). While £515 million was raised in VC in 2017, £234 million was raised through Initial Public Offerings (IPOs) and £452 million in follow-on funding. The money raised through IPOs was more than twice that of 2016. These figures support a trend of companies maturing and progressing through the funding lifecycle.

Unsurprisingly, a major theme of the report was the impact of Brexit. The report appears optimistic about the UK’s research and development post-Brexit, describing the UK pharmaceutical industry as ‘more than capable of transcending the political issues’.

BIA CEO Steve Bates said: “The UK’s impressive preclinical and clinical pipeline shows the strength and capability of the UK biotech ecosystem to produce fantastic science that attracts talent and funding from across the globe…it is also very encouraging to see that UK biotech companies are scaling and maturing at pace, and the variety of funding options open to them means we can build the third global cluster in bioscience in the UK.”

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Investment in university spinouts reached record levels in 2017. Many raised seed funding, including University of Oxford spinout SpyBiotech, which secured £4 million to develop a molecular superglue to support the rapid development of vaccines for a range of diseases.

The report predicts that 2018 will also be a ‘stellar year’, with upcoming events including Phase III results from Faron for its treatment of acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) and the interim (24-week) data from Summit Therapeutics’ Phase II PhaseOut Duchene Muscular Dystrophy.

A spokesperson from BIA told Pharmaceutical Technology: “The robust pipeline demonstrates the strength and breadth of UK bioscience which is in turn informed by the UK’s strength in core science and research. Encouragingly this is not just a trend for 2017 but a more established one marking the UK’s prominence in Europe.

“Whilst one cannot make specific predictions [for 2018], the strength of the UK pipeline in 2017 and in previous years supports a strong sense of optimism of impressive products continuing to come through from UK discovery and commercialisation.”