Mayor of London Boris Johnson launches a major new initiative backed by some of the country’s senior academics and business people that will transform the London-Oxford-Cambridge life sciences sector into a world beating power-cluster
Seventy-one Nobel Prize Laureates have links with London universities, 48 of them scientists. Oxford University is home to 51 Nobel Prize Laureates, 32 of who are scientists while 90 affiliates of Cambridge University have been awarded the prize, 76 of which are scientists. The region is also home to six of the world’s best universities. Over the last 10 years employment in life sciences has increased by 21 per cent – compared to only 12 per cent on average for all employment types.
There is also the unique advantages of the National Health Service serving a diverse capital city – a living laboratory in which every human genome type is represented – The perfect location for clinical trials and human research.
The region has more than 705,900 people employed in the life sciences sector. According to fDi Markets, over the last five years (2009-13), London alone attracted 35 new foreign investment projects in the life sciences, representing more than £330m in new investment and over 1,300 new jobs. The greater South East including London attracted 76 new foreign direct investment projects, worth over £660m creating 3,300 jobs.
Next year the £500m Francis Crick Institute will open in London – becoming one of Europe’s major centres for biological research and innovation. The centre will focus on discovering the basic biology behind a wide range of diseases including cancer, heart disease, stroke, infections and neurodegenerative diseases. Its ambition is to achieve improvements in the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of disease and to generate new economic opportunities for the UK. Alongside the Crick is Oxford’s proposed £21m bio escalator and Cambridge’s new £212m MRC Laboratory for Molecular Biology.
These enormous strengths are located in myriad institutions and organisations across the three cities. MedCity will consolidate these strengths, give them a coherent collective identity and showcase the expertise of the South East cluster as the global landing place for international businesses and investors.
It is expected that the growth in the life sciences sector as a result of MedCity will have a major impact on the national economy, from business supply chain linkages to increased export earnings. MedCity will also collaborate with other parts of the UK to build national strength and global competitiveness. An in-principle cooperation agreement is already in place with Cardiff’s new life sciences hub and the Northern Health Sciences Alliance.
Kit Malthouse, Deputy Mayor for Business and Enterprise and the originator of the project said: “Between the three cities that make up this golden triangle we have the most powerful scientific discovery engine in the world. Now we have to take these discoveries, inject the power of our financial sector, and turn them into world beating companies and jobs.”
Eliot Forster, Chairman of MedCity, said: “MedCity is a unique enterprise that brings together our outstanding life sciences sector in London and the Greater South East. It will stimulate collaboration across the sector and through this drive economic growth. This is a singular opportunity for this sector to find its rightful place in the world market; to create new companies, new therapies, new investments and to deliver economic and patient benefits”.
Minister for Universities and Science, David Willetts MP, said: “MedCity has some of the world’s greatest universities, strong partnerships with the NHS, significant Government investment and transport links to Europe and beyond. That puts it in a unique position to lead medical research and encourage life science companies to move to the UK.”
The Mayor launched MedCity earlier today on Imperial College London’s Hammersmith campus. Here, the Mayor visited Imanova Limited, a world-leading centre for imaging sciences whose cutting edge PET scanning research provides a specialist resource to the UK research field. Imanova was formed in 2011 in an innovative alliance between the Medical Research Council, Imperial College London, King’s College London and University College London. It is already working with a number of the world’s leading pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies.
At Imanova, the Mayor demonstrated the use of a novel device based on the Microsoft Kinect camera, which tracked his movements generating a 3D image of the Mayor’s head. This uses Imanova-developed software to track the movements of patients during their PET scan. This is particularly useful for patients who may find it difficult to keep still and ensures an accurate, unblurred brain scan is obtained.
MedCity will also enable collaboration among academic institutions, the NHS, charities and the private sector and, in particular, collaboration with the City to attract more investment and risk capital to the sector.
In addition, it will provide a strong voice for the life sciences field, championing its strengths but also raising awareness of the factors impeding further growth with national and European governments and regulators.
MedCity will represent the region at international conferences and operate a “concierge” service navigating the industry for those who want to invest, collaborate and provide up-to-date market insights. It will also establish a physical ‘hub’ to act as a point of focus for MedCity activities.