Syntaxin, who specialises in the discovery and development of new drugs derived from bacterial toxins to treat chronic diseases, has been awarded the R&D grant from the UK Department for Trade and Industry (DTI) to develop enhanced methods for the bioprocessing of complex proteins that can be used as biopharmaceuticals to treat neurological, respiratory and metabolic diseases. Syntaxin will design the therapeutics to be investigated using its expertise and intellectual property in designing novel recombinant proteins and candidate biopharmaceutical agents. As part of the deal, Syntaxin will also collaborate with the Advanced Centre for Biochemical Engineering (ACBE) at UCL (University College London) and the UK Health Protection Agency (HPA). The ACBE is the UK focus for bioprocess research and will apply its expertise in ultra scale-down experimentation and process modelling to rapidly explore novel bioprocess routes and their optimisation. The HPA will then undertake the scale-up of these methodologies in order to develop manufacturing processes for Syntaxin's biotherapeutic candidates. Biopharmaceuticals, drugs based on large complex molecules produced in a living system in contrast to chemically synthesised pharmaceutical drugs, are being championed as a major advance in modern medicine that will transform treatment of serious diseases for which there is no safe or effective therapy. Bioprocessing involves taking living cells and turning them into manufacturing units and covers all aspects of the production process that transforms a candidate drug into a finished biopharmaceutical product. It is far more complex than the manufacturing processes utilised by traditional chemical pharmaceuticals and advances in bioprocessing technology are crucial to ensure the viability of the industry. The UK is now second only to the US in terms of its biopharmaceuticals development pipeline, however, the country's industry still lags a long way behind the US and strong measures are needed to maintain the country's European lead and to close the gap with America. To help address this situation, the UK Government launched a ten-year Science and Innovation Investment Framework in 2004, to support businesses investing in new and emerging technologies in this pharmaceutical field. Over the period 2005-2008, £320m is available to businesses in the form of grants to support research and development in the technology area in a programme managed by the DTI. The investment slowly seems to be paying off - bioProcessUK, the UK's national bioprocessing network, has estimated that there are now over 50 UK companies now involved in biopharmaceutical development. The current pipeline of these companies is now composed of over 127 products in pre-clinical trials, 70 products in clinical trials and 4 products in pre-registration. "The UK bioprocessing sector could deliver up to 30 new biopharmaceuticals over the next seven years," said Tony Bradshaw, bioProcessUK director. "However, 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."