The life sciences

The 'Golden Triangle', made up of Oxford, Cambridge and London, marks the central cluster of the UK’s life sciences industry, at the heart of which lies Hertfordshire. Within the triangle are four of the world’s top 10 universities for medical and scientific research: Cambridge, Oxford, Imperial College London and University College London.

UK researchers and institutions have been credited with major scientific breakthroughs including the discovery of penicillin and the structure of DNA, advancements in neuroscience and medical imaging, and developments in stem cell research and in-vitro fertilisation. Businesses benefit from the opportunity to tap into this pool of talent and research expertise.

Britain’s life sciences industry has a track record for excellence and is supported by a tax structure that rewards innovation. More than 5,600 life sciences companies operate in the UK, with a turnover of over £60 billion and exports that exceed £30 billion. These companies span product development, supply and associated services, and employ more than 220,000 people.

A skilled workforce

The sector is supported by a skilled workforce. In 2016, a total of 38,800 science, research, engineering and technology professionals worked in Hertfordshire – 50% above the national average, with an additional 10,300 people working as science, engineering and technology associate professionals.

There are 2,800 people working in pharmaceuticals and the industry is 4.1 times more important as a local employer than the national average. More people work in pharmaceuticals manufacturing in Hertfordshire than in any other Local Enterprise Partnership area in England. The total number of pharmaceuticals manufacturing jobs is 75% higher than in Greater Cambridgeshire, Greater Peterborough and the Oxfordshire areas combined.

Life sciences employed 13,200 people in Hertfordshire in 2015. There were 330 enterprises in pharmaceutical and life sciences research in 2016. While the sector is dominated by large enterprises, there has been a remarkable growth in the business population, which has risen by 4.1% annually since 2010.

Pharma

Famous names

Hertfordshire is home to some of the most famous names in pharmaceuticals, thanks in part to its unique base of local research assets and its proximity to other major national and international research centres.

GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) is one of the world’s largest research-based pharmaceutical companies. It has a global R&D centre at Stevenage and a significant manufacturing and R&D site at nearby Ware. The company, which is renowned for its work on HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria, is a major partner in the development of the UK’s first innovation bioscience campus at Stevenage.

Roche undertakes leading research into oncology and viral diseases and pioneers new products for specialist use in hospitals from its base in Welwyn Garden City. One of Roche’s former buildings is now part of the BioPark, one of the UK’s leading incubators for life science start-up firms.

Hertfordshire boasts important facilities to attract companies developing new medicines or requiring frequent access to standardised biological reagents. These include the Stevenage Bioscience Catalyst, Rothamsted Research and the National Institute for Biological Standards and Control – the official laboratory for the control and standardisation of biological medicines in the UK.

Future opportunities include medicines and drug delivery technologies, personalised medicines, e-health, bio-pharma research, drug development and production, and convergent medical technologies.

Galvani Bioelectronics is a new company, established in November 2016, dedicated to the development of bioelectronic medicines – a new class of medicines consisting of miniaturised, implantable devices. Formed through a partnership between GSK, and leading technology company, Verily Life Sciences (which is the life sciences arm of Alphabet, Google’s parent company), Galvani Bioelectronics combines the complementary expertise of its parent companies to enable the research, development and commercialisation of bioelectronic therapies. Galvani Bioelectronics is headquartered within GSK’s global R&D centre in Stevenage.

Stevenage Bioscience Catalyst is home to a cluster of small bio-tech companies, sharing specialist knowledge, skills and equipment, leading to faster innovation in drug development. The centre is pioneering a culture to support early stage bio-tech, pharma and medtech developments, including convergent medical technologies. Occupants include MRC (Medical Research Council) Technology, Johnson & Johnson Innovation, GE Healthcare Life Sciences, Cambridge University, and University College London.

The Cell and Gene Therapy Catapult is a Government sponsored centre of excellence in innovation, with the core purpose of developing a world-leading cell and gene therapy sector in the UK as part of a global industry. The Catapult is building a £55m large-scale manufacturing centre in Stevenage to help bring cell and gene therapies to market in the UK and internationally. The facility, due to open in 2017, aims to de-risk capital by offering collaborators a low capital outlay from the beginning. It will enable acceleration of commercial scale production and offer certainty of manufacturing future. The centre will also provide the UK with the manufacturing facilities needed for later-stage cell and gene therapy clinical studies and commercialisation.

Pharmaron - a Chinese firm - has recently acquired Merck Sharp and Dohme’s process development and research facility in Hoddesdon. Pharmaron sees this as a unique opportunity to acquire state-of-the-art Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP) standard facilities for the development of Active Pharmaceutical Ingredients (API) and formulation development in Europe, to complement its existing chemistry and integrated drug discovery and development services globally. Under the deal, Merck Sharp and Dohme will remain on site and lease back the main office buildings. 

Eisai Co. Ltd. - a Japanese pharmaceutical manufacturer - has made Hatfield the base for its European Knowledge Centre.

Bio Products Laboratory Ltd. (BPL) has been involved in processing human plasma since 1950 when it was established as part of the Lister Institute of Preventative Medicine by the Medical Research Council (MRC), and started manufacturing specific immunoglobulins in 1972. In 1987, BPL opened a £60 million manufacturing plant, designed to provide self-sufficiency of plasma products for England and Wales.

Hertfordshire's research centres of excellence include BioPark, Stevenage Bioscience Catalyst, The National Institute for Biological Standards and Control, the UK Stem Cell Bank and the ECRI Institute. There are also several major research centres for plant and animal life sciences, including Rothamsted Research, Tun Abdul Razak Research Centre, Royal Veterinary College, and the Centre for Agriculture, Food & Environmental Management.