"Big push" for UK biotech

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"Now is the moment for a big push" in improving the environment for the UK biotech industry argues Tony Blair, Prime Minister.

"Now is the moment for a big push" in improving the environment for the UK biotech industry, argues Tony Blair, Prime Minister. "To allow the biotech industry to get some strength in research out of the NHS is something we need to look at in this country," the Prime Minister argued, speaking prior to a meeting with biotech business leaders, AstraZeneca, Pfizer, GSK and Amgen at the latter's new European HQ in Uxbridge (UK). "The fact that we can get the best people in from around the world to work in the UK is another enormous strength."The UK accounts for just under half of public biotech companies in Europe, and has three times more than that of its nearest rival Germany. The meeting's aim was to discuss how to maintain the UK's competitive edge in the biotech and pharmaceutical industries. Assuring the assembly that he was "here to listen", Blair stated: "We need to get the policy right so I need to know what you want me to do."

The Prime Minister added that he believes the industry and Government have now curbed the actions of animal rights extremists, and underlined his support for stem cell research. The discussions covered the cost of clinical trials, strengthening links with universities and funding. The BioIndustry Association (BIA) described the meeting as, "incredibly positive from all around the table", and that Tony Blair's leadership on creating the right policy climate for biotech had "reverberated across the sector".Blair also advised that he will ask Sir David Cooksey, chairman of the Clinical Research Collaboration Industry Reference Group, to review progress on his 2003 report on the future challenges for biotech in the UK. Last December, Sir David issued the recommendations of his comprehensive review of UK health research funding, which included a new drug development pathway analogous to the US Critical Path Initiative. The BIA argued that these proposals had the potential to revolutionize the development of medicines based on biotechnology.The Government now argues that it is vital that public support is maintained as biotechnology evolves — so any changes to the rules on stem cells will be scrutinized by Parliament.