Ministers have announced a second wave of funding from the Biomedical Catalyst fund, which will provide 51 biomedical businesses with a total of £47.2 million to help them bridge the R&D "valley of death."

With this second round of funding, the Biomedical Catalyst, which is run by the Technology Strategy Board and the Medical Research Council (MRC) with a budget of £180 million, has now invested a total of £96 million in 115 companies, it was announced at the Innovate UK 2013 event in London yesterday.

The Catalyst is a competition awards programme which supports activities in three stages: - feasibility studies, to gather evidence and make an initial evaluation of the potential for an idea; - early-stage awards, enabling applicants to evaluate the technical feasibility of an idea and establish proof-of-concept in a model system; and - late-stage awards, which enable applicants to take a well-developed concept and demonstrate its effectiveness in a relevant environment. This award is designed to support applicants seeking to evaluate the clinical utility of their new product, process or service.

The new round of awards include: - £3.3 million for 25 feasibility studies (total project value £4.5 million); - £30.3 million for 18 early-stage awards (total project value £42 million); and - £13.6 million for eight late-stage awards (total project value £16.5 million).

One recipient of Biomedical Catalyst funding is Glide Parma, a pharmaceutical development and device company based in Abingdon, Berkshire, which received an early-stage award of £2.3 million and was able to secure an additional £14 million in private investment. The firm is working to produce treatments for osteoporosis and is using the fund to help progress its ideas through clinical tests and develop manufacturing processes.

“The Biomedical Catalyst has proved to be a real success in leveraging additional private finance and it is a model I am keen to see replicated across other technology areas," said the Universities and Science Minister, David Willets.

And a new report unveiled at yesterday’s event also shows that, as a result of the Biomedical Catalyst, the next generation of UK bioscience companies is taking forward new innovations more quickly than would otherwise have been the case.

The report, published by the BioIndustry Association (BIA), notes that the programme has now leveraged more than £20 million in new funds into the sector. 

'The Biomedical Catalyst is successfully leveraging additional private-sector investment in to UK biotech companies. This enables them to do more research and grow faster in a strategically-vital sector for the UK economy," said BIA chief executive Steve Bates.

"BIA member companies have told me that engaging with government-led schemes can be complicated and time-consuming for business. However, the Biomedical Catalyst has been a success because it has a short and straightforward application process, a speedy response and decision on the application and expert scrutiny that is seen as de-risking the project and driving investor interest," he added.

- Also at Innovate UK 2013, £12 million-worth of new support for innovative businesses funded through the Technology Strategy Board was announced, including the launch of a £3.7 million competition for feasibility studies in Photonics for Health. The competition will provide awards of around £100,000 to businesses looking to exploit this area of technology in areas such as the use of lasers and LEDS for laser eye surgery and cancer diagnosis.