£180m Biomedical Catalyst Fund set to launch

A £180 million government fund to help innovative small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) and academics to develop solutions to healthcare challenges will open for applications at the end of April.

The Biomedical Catalyst is a key element of the Strategy for Life Sciences launched by the Prime Minister in December last year.  It will see the Medical Research Council (MRC) and the Technology Strategy Board working together to take the best British medical breakthroughs through to commercial success.

The Biomedical Catalyst will be open to SMEs and academics, and will accept proposals from sectors that have the potential to provide significant positive healthcare and economic impact.  It will support the development of innovative technologies emerging from partnerships between clinicians, academics and industry.

The Prime Minister, David Cameron, said: “The UK boasts a world-leading life sciences sector which is changing at an incredible pace.  And I’m absolutely committed to helping it widen its significant foothold in the global market.

The Prime Minister added that the £180 million fund would support both SMEs and academics to turn promising ideas into innovative technologies.

Announcing the launch of the fund at a life sciences roundtable event in Japan, Minister for Universities and Science David Willetts said: “We have a world-leading life sciences industry in the UK that is changing fast. The Government is absolutely committed to ensuring its future success and one of the key challenges is tackling the so-called ‘valley of death’. This exists between the moment that a bright new idea is developed in the laboratory and the point when a new drug or technology can be invested in by the market. The £180 million Biomedical Catalyst programme will bridge this funding gap and support innovative businesses and our research base, bringing benefits for patients and the economy.”

Iain Gray, Chief Executive of the Technology Strategy Board, said: “This exciting scheme is a major part of the UK’s Strategy for Life Sciences and it aims to help the next generation of brilliant British medical breakthroughs become the next generation of great British companies.  It will provide seamless support, from concept to commercialisation, from initial research in universities through to commercial development, from incubation of innovation through to product development.”

Sir John Savill, Chief Executive of the Medical Research Council said: “The Biomedical Catalyst will give SMEs greater access to leading academic researchers and patient groups. The MRC is particularly keen to help SMEs engage with clinical proof of concept studies, where partnerships with academic research groups and patient participation are vital. It will also build on the significant investment we have made in our existing translational research initiatives to help us deliver the health impacts of fundamental research to people more quickly.”

Three categories of grant awards will be available through the Biomedical Catalyst scheme – feasibility, early stage and late stage.  Any SME or academic undertaking research and development, either individually or working in collaboration, may apply and applications will be accepted at any time.   Individual grants to businesses will range from a maximum of £150,000 for feasibility awards to £3 million for early and late stage awards.

The Biomedical Catalyst scheme will support projects in sectors or disciplines aimed at addressing healthcare challenges.  The government bodies say projects could focus on, for example, stratified therapy development, regenerative medicine, diagnostics, eHealth and mHealth solutions, enabling medical technologies and devices.  The programme will seek to support those opportunities which demonstrate the highest scientific and commercial potential, irrespective of medical area. 

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