Building a network of centres of excellence for bioprocessing would help to maintain the UK’s lead in the development of biological medicines as other European countries start to close the gap, says bioProcessUK.

Over the last three years, bioProcessUK has co-ordinated the investment of more than £20 million in government, Research Council and industry funding for bioprocessing research and education. Addressing the Knowledge Transfer Network’s recent annual conference in Cardiff, however, director Dr Tony Bradshaw warned that the country risks losing its edge in the biopharmaceutical sector unless training is available to nurture the next generation of bioprocessing specialists.

At the moment the UK has the largest development pipeline for biological medicines in Europe, with one third more products than its nearest competitor. The UK pipeline has been strengthening year on year but “other European countries are now catching up”, bioProcessUK says.

There are a number of universities in the UK with strong academic capabilities in bioprocessing research that could be developed into centres of excellence, the organisation argues. bioProcessUK is working with key stakeholders to pull together the necessary funds to launch such an initiative. An encouraging sign is that Imperial College London recently secured a lectureship in bioprocessing funded by Swiss contract manufacturer Lonza.

“The establishment of Centres of Excellence in bioprocessing research will help the UK’s bioscience sector fully realise its potential, address the skills shortage currently faced by the sector, and ultimately deliver innovative treatments to patients that need them,” commented Bradshaw. “The Centres of Excellence will also reinforce the UK’s position as a global hub of education in bioprocessing.”