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The UK has a long and successful track record in pharmaceutical manufacturing.

Around 1,300 companies are currently involved in this area, accounting for nearly 10% (Gross Value Added) of all UK manufacturing, while sector exports are more than 30 billion GBP.

More UK-based business research and development is conducted by the pharmaceuticals sector alone than any other manufacturing sector, and it makes up more than 20% of all business research and development in the UK.

The industry-led Medicines Manufacturing Industry Partnership (MMIP) works with the UK government to continue to improve and enhance the UK medicines manufacturing environment.

The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) is a supportive and pragmatic regulator. Its Innovation Office helps businesses clarify product regulatory requirements and can find faster routes to market.

The MHRA has global impact as a regulatory agency and in setting international standards. The agency’s National Institute for Biological Standards and Control produces more than 90% of the international standards for biological medicines.

The MHRA has global impact as a regulatory agency and in setting international standards. The agency’s National Institute for Biological Standards and Control produces more than 90% of the international standards for biological medicines.


The global pipeline of biological therapies (biopharmaceuticals) is rapidly increasing, and there is a growing market for biosimilars and biobetters (variants of a biologic molecule) with some leading biological drugs coming off patent. The majority of the top 15 pharmaceutical companies are expected to grow their biologics portfolios, while injectable dose formulations are likely to spur Contract Manufacturing Organisation growth. The UK has strengths in both areas.


The core biopharmaceutical sector in the UK has 664 companies employing 62,300 people and has a turnover of £28.9bn. Within this sector, the small molecule drugs segment accounts for 67% of companies, 82% of employees and 82% of turnover. Therapeutic proteins, antibodies and vaccines are the next three segments, together making up 16% of both turnover and employment.


The South-East has one of the largest concentrations of biopharmaceutical companies in the UK. Many of the leading companies in this sector have offices in the Thames Valley, where they can benefit from close proximity to other companies in the cluster, as well as easy access to London and Heathrow Airport and consequently to customers, supply chains and financial markets.


German-owned Bayer, one of the world’s top ten pharmaceutical companies, which operates in the small molecule segment, has its UK Headquarters in the Thames Valley (Reading), having recently relocated within the region.


Boehringer Ingelheim also recently invested £6m+ in refurbishing and expanding its premises. Its UK & Ireland MD Prof Klaus Dugi said:


“This is a significant milestone for Boehringer Ingelheim. We aim to create the best possible working environment for our staff. We are looking forward to having the team all under one roof.”


Alnylam, one of the most promising US biotechnology companies, opened its European Drug Development and Commercial Headquarters in Maidenhead in September 2016. The company is the leading corporate exponent of RNAi therapeutics (RNA interference) which makes it possible to “silence” disease-causing genes.


A number of leading companies specialising in the manufacture of vaccines also have offices in the Thames Valley, including Sanofi Pasteur (the world’s largest producer of influenza vaccines), MSD Vaccines and Seqirus, who established an operational hub in the region in 2015. The building in Maidenhead was officially opened by Prime Minister Mrs Theresa May (then Home Secretary), with the words:


“It is a pleasure to open the Seqirus office here in Maidenhead. They join a significant cluster of Life Sciences and Healthcare businesses that have chosen the town as their base, drawn here by a highly skilled workforce and specialist talent pool, connectivity to London Heathrow, proximity to the world’s leading research institutions (University of Oxford) and some of the country’s best quality of living.”


Vertex Pharmaceuticals, a global, US-owned biotechnology company, aims to discover, develop and commercialise innovative new medicines for the treatment of multiple sclerosis and cancer. It established its first international R&D site at Milton Park, Oxfordshire in 1998.


Included among the biopharmaceutical businesses in Oxfordshire are a number of spin-outs from the University of Oxford, such as Adaptimmune and Immunocore. Both of these companies are working on T-cell responses to cancer and are rapidly scaling up. The latter has worked in collaboration with Aigenpulse, a company which employs data technologies and advanced machine learning to accelerate drug discovery. Aigenpulse has recently moved into larger premises at Milton Park, Oxfordshire and opened offices at the CIC in Boston, Massachusetts to support the organisation’s continued expansion and entrance into the North America market.


Oxford BioMedica, a leading gene and cell therapy group, has recently announced its scheduled expansion for Q1 2019 into new offices in Oxford. Founded in 1995 as a spin-out from the Department of Biochemistry, the new facility will more than double the bioprocessing capacity of the Group and create up to 100 new, highly skilled positions over the next two years, safeguarding the company’s market-leading position.


More information on pharmaceutical manufacturing in the UK can be found here.



A global leader in the glucose monitoring market, Abbott Diabetes Care grew out of the acquisition of the Oxford University spin-out company, Medisense. Abbott Diabetes now produces over 2 billion glucose test strips annually at its production facility in Witney, Oxfordshire.


Nanopore Technologies, another Oxford University spin-out, has developed the world’s first and only nanopore DNA sequencer, the MinION. This product is designed to bring easy biological analyses to anyone, whether in scientific research, education or a range of real-world applications such as disease/pathogen surveillance, environmental monitoring, food-chain surveillance, self-quantification or even microgravity biology. The company aims to become the world’s leading producer of equipment to decode the DNA of any organism, from people to viruses and in applications from medical diagnosis to food safety.


A third Oxford University spin-out company, Caristo Diagnostics, has recently been launched to commercialise a new coronary CT image analysis technology which would allow the early identification of those who are at risk of having a fatal heart attack, years before one occurs.


Johnson & Johnson’s Lifescan, one of the leading manufacturers of blood glucose monitoring systems throughout the world, also has a base in the region (Buckinghamshire).


Medical Devices


The region is also the chosen location for many medical device companies with operations across the range of R&D, sales and service and manufacturing.


Owen Mumford, for example, is a global industry leader in medical device design and manufacturing, specialising in self-injection and blood sampling devices. Headquartered in Woodstock, Oxfordshire and employing over 500 people, the company exports over 90% of its products.


Becton Dickinson is a US owned global medical device company which has recently demonstrated its commitment to the Thames Valley by consolidating its Oxford and Basingstoke sites in new premises at Winnersh Triangle, near Reading. The new offices are home to commercial operations for all BD businesses in the UK, as well as support functions, technical services and a new Innovation Centre to host customers.


Digital Health


The UK is at the forefront of transforming healthcare services by using digital solutions to prevent and manage chronic illnesses more effectively, and motivate patients to participate in their own long-term care. This leading position has grown out of a unique environment for collaboration and innovation. Academics and clinicians from world-renowned institutions work with policy makers and dynamic private sector technology companies. In this rapidly developing sector, there are 289 digital health companies, employing 7,405 people and generating approximately £886m turnover. Geographical analysis shows that the South East of England has the highest number of digital health companies in the UK (15% of the UK total), turnover (26%) and employment (20%).


The Thames Valley region has a strong digital health cluster, with particular concentrations of activity around Oxford and Reading. These areas are ideal locations for this sub-sector, since they have a large pool of tech talent, including app developers and data analytics experts.


Oxfordshire has a particularly strong and growing cluster of innovative companies operating in digital health and developing the diverse range of technologies essential to it – such as wireless communications, sensor hardware, signal processing software, mobile internet and Big Data analytics. Patient monitoring technologies are a key focus in the region.


Many of these companies are spin-outs from research laboratories. The Institute for Biomedical Engineering (IBME) at the University of Oxford, has spun out ten companies in the last seven years and several of these are in the digital health sector.  Such tech-led companies are a key attraction for larger organisations looking for collaborations.


Professor Lionel Taressenko, the first Director of the IBME and now the Head of the Department of Engineering Science, said:


“Oxford is unique in the way that engineers work closely with medical researchers.  Their integrated research teams design clinically-relevant products and software with a positive impact on the delivery of healthcare and patient outcomes.”


The University of Reading, which has a world-class reputation for teaching, research and enterprise, is participating, through its Department of Engineering, in a large interdisciplinary research collaboration to develop the next generation of telecare. This collaboration, known as Sphere (Sensor Platform for Healthcare in a Residential Environment) aims to develop a digital healthcare assistant in the home, with Reading leading on the development of passive sensors.