Biotechnology Breakthroughs: From Gene Editing to Vaccine Development in the UK
The UK is home to more than 1,200 biotech companies, employing over 280,000 people, and turns over £94 billion each year. This sector is responsible for significant biotechnology breakthroughs and innovations that are felt across the globe.
From the COVID-19 vaccine to life-changing healthcare techniques such as gene editing, the UK's contributions to life sciences have positively impacted public health. The industry is also filled to the brim with exciting opportunities.
Under the careful guidance of life science advisors and leading institutions, UK biotech corporations have made leaps and bounds in the area of plant gene editing. In the face of the climate emergency, this is more important than ever as the potential to grow crops and plant life that require lower fertiliser inputs and have greater resilience to pests and viruses has been unlocked.
It also moves the world closer to human gene editing with revolutionary breakthroughs like the CRISPR-Cas9 tool. This edits genes by precisely cutting DNA and allowing natural repair processes to take over in order to treat genetic diseases such as cystic fibrosis, AIDS, blindness, and some cancers.
Vaccines have played a vital role in public health for generations and have saved millions of lives around the world. The UK is proud to have been critical in the development of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccination and to have become the first country in the world to deploy an approved COVID-19 vaccine.
Just this summer, a specialised vaccine research centre was opened to join institutions such as the University of Birmingham and AstraZeneca in preparing for the next potential pandemic pathogen. Such state-of-the-art facilities make the UK well-positioned to accelerate the development of diagnostics, vaccines, and other therapeutics to protect the public against other global outbreaks.
Thanks to the world-leading academic institutions and collaboration in biotechnology and engineering biology, the UK is Europe’s leading biotech hub for breakthrough life sciences and ranks fourth on the Global Innovation Index. This comes as no surprise with the numerous biotech clusters stemming the country, from London and Cambridge to Yorkshire and Newcastle.
Our major presence in the sector is largely thanks to companies such as Artios Pharma, a company dedicated to developing groundbreaking cancer treatments, and Quell Therapeutics, a soon-to-be world leader in cell therapy.
The UK biotech industry secured £295 million in the first quarter of 2023 and it doesn’t look to be slowing down any time soon. Advancements in healthcare and biopharmaceuticals continue to make great leaps but the focus could shift to selective breeding and enhancement of plants to increase disease resistance and improve yields in markets such as nutrition and personal care.