The pharmaceutical industry has added its voice to the tributes being paid to Senator Edward Kennedy, who has died following a battle with a brain tumour at the age of 77.

The Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America’s chief executive Billy Tauzin described Sen Kennedy as “a lifelong champion for health”, adding that over nearly five decades, he has been “a powerful force for good with few peers. As a leader and legislator, he appreciated the importance of medical progress for patients here and around the world”.

Jim Greenwood, chief executive of the Biotechnology Industry Organization said that Sen Kennedy was “an indefatigable champion for universal access to health care as well as a strong supporter of government funding for medical research”. The last surviving brother of President John F Kennedy worked to ensure that the USA “continues to lead the world in biotech innovation and to bring the benefits of that innovation to patients”, he said, adding that “we have lost a great leader and a legendary public servant”.

Sen Kennedy’s death comes as President Obama’s healthcare reform proposals have been taking a bashing and observers believe that the sympathy for the “liberal lion of the Senate”, who recently described health reform as the "cause of my life", will provide fresh impetus to the plans.

Speaker of the US House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi said that “Ted Kennedy’s dream of quality health care for all Americans will be made real this year because of his leadership and his inspiration”.