A new report suggests that up to 30 biopharmaceutical products developed by UK companies using cell-based manufacturing techniques could be approved by 2012, reinforcing the idea that biopharmaceuticals are increasingly being seen as a viable alternative.
This pipeline is a driving force in the number of bioprocessing contract manufactures and supply companies based in the UK, who have been championing the belief that biopharmaceuticals will transform treatment of serious diseases for which there is no safe or effective therapy.
bioProcessUK, the UK's national bioprocessing network, has estimated that there are over 50 UK companies involved in biopharmaceutical development, the transformation of a candidate drug into a biopharmaceutical product utilising living cells as their manufacturing unit.
This figure makes the UK second only to the US in terms of initial development of biopharmaceuticals and were taken on the assumption that biopharmaceutical candidates currently in clinical trial phases I, II and III and pre-registration phase will receive approval.
The current pipeline of these companies is composed of 127 products in pre-clinical trials, 70 products in clinical trials and 4 products in pre-registration.
The research also revealed that proteins and protein antibodies make up two thirds of the UK's pipeline. Other active substances in development include cells and nucleic acids.
"The UK bioprocessing sector could deliver up to 30 new biopharmaceuticals over the next seven years. This will only be possible if we ensure that the UK is the best environment for these companies, with adequate funding, infrastructure and supportive regulation," said Tony Bradshaw, bioProcessUK director.
The UK contributes a major part of the world's biopharmaceuticals development pipeline and is particularly prominent in protein and antibody development.
Successful protein-based therapies, for example those utilising monoclonal antibodies, are already offering new treatment options to patients with cancer and Crohn's disease.
Biopharmaceuticals, drugs based on large complex molecules produced in a living system in contrast to chemically synthesised pharmaceutical drugs, are a major advance in modern medicine.
Bioprocessing is the action of taking living cells and turning them into manufacturing units.
It is far more complex than the manufacturing processes utilised by traditional chemical pharmaceuticals and covers all aspects of the production process that transform a candidate drug into a biopharmaceutical that is safe for patient use.
The last few years has seen big pharma increasingly investing in biotechnology companies that have made the most gains in biopharmaceutical therapies both in Europe and the US.
Combining resources means the advantage of scale, working biotechnology into a broad range of therapeutic research categories can be wielded.
Examples of large pharma companies buying into this sector include Pfizer's purchase of Pharmacia, which gave it a biopharma product portfolio and a state-of-the-art research facility in St. Louis, US.
Similarly, Wyeth's purchase of Genetics Institute set the drug firm up with manufacturing in Andover, Mass., and Abbott Laboratories' acquisition of BASF's Knoll Pharmaceuticals did the same for Abbott in Worcester, Mass., and Ludwigshafen, Germany.