Tuesday 08 April 2014

The Mayor of London, Boris Johnson today (Tuesday, April 8) launched a major new initiative backed by some of the country’s senior academics and business people that will transform the London-Oxford-Cambridge life sciences sector into a world beating power-cluster.

Through MedCity, a new body modelled on the immensely successful Tech City Investment Organisation, the life sciences sector in the South East will come to match the crucial position of financial services in the national economy.

The new organisation is tasked with attracting life sciences corporations large and small to the ‘golden triangle’ formed by the three UK cities, facilitating collaboration between them and the UK academic research base, and reinforcing specialist infrastructure so that the region becomes one of the premier, interconnected clusters for life science research, development, manufacturing and commercialisation.

This will create jobs, attract billions of pounds of investment and help spur the discovery of new treatments to tackle disease, propelling the sector to become a key contributor to the capital’s growth and health. 

The Mayor announced today that £2.92m is being invested in the project by England’s university funding body – the Higher Education Funding Council for England. This is on top of £1.2m funding confirmed by the Mayor of London’s office.

MedCity has been established by the Mayor of London and King’s Health Partners, Imperial College Academic Health Science Centre and UCLPartners with co-operation from the Universities of Cambridge and Oxford. The organisation is supported by an advisory board that includes leading life sciences figures in the UK such as Sir Paul Nurse, President of the Royal Society and CEO of The Francis Crick Institute, and Professor Sir John Bell, Regius Professor of Medicine at Oxford University, alongside successful entrepreneurs including Dr Herman Hauser and Dr Simon Kerry as well as leading political, medical, charitable and business institutions.

The Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, said: “Together with Oxford and Cambridge we form a ‘golden triangle’ of scientific innovation and we need to channel that intellectual pre-eminence into a positive impact on our economy. MedCity will span everything from research to clinical trials to manufacturing, across biotech, med tech and health tech. I am in no doubt that having the whole ‘chain’ from small spin-offs to massive companies doing their research, clinical development and manufacturing here in London and the south east can be as important to our economy as the financial services sector is today.”

From the discovery of penicillin and DNA to the links between lung cancer and smoking, the South East of England has been at the forefront of groundbreaking research for decades and it has many ingrained strengths that make it the natural home for European life sciences.

Seventy-one Nobel Prize Laureates have links with London universities, 48 of them scientists. Oxford University is home to 51 Nobel Prize Laureates, 32 of who are scientists while 90 affiliates of Cambridge University have been awarded the prize, 76 of which are scientists. The region is also home to six of the world’s best universities. Over the last 10 years employment in life sciences has increased by 21 per cent – compared to only 12 per cent on average for all employment types.

There is also the unique advantages of the National Health Service serving a diverse capital city – a living laboratory in which every human genome type is represented – The perfect location for clinical trials and human research.

The region has more than 705,900 people employed in the life sciences sector. According to fDi Markets, over the last five years (2009-13), London alone attracted 35 new foreign investment projects in the life sciences, representing more than £330m in new investment and over 1,300 new jobs. The greater South East including London attracted 76 new foreign direct investment projects, worth over £660m creating 3,300 jobs.

Next year the £500m Francis Crick Institute will open in London – becoming one of Europe’s major centres for biological research and innovation. The centre will focus on discovering the basic biology behind a wide range of diseases including cancer, heart disease, stroke, infections and neurodegenerative diseases.  Its ambition is to achieve improvements in the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of disease and to generate new economic opportunities for the UK. Alongside the Crick is Oxford’s proposed £21m bio escalator and Cambridge’s new £212m MRC Laboratory for Molecular Biology.

These enormous strengths are located in myriad institutions and organisations across the three cities. MedCity will consolidate these strengths, give them a coherent collective identity and showcase the expertise of the South East cluster as the global landing place for international businesses and investors.

It is expected that the growth in the life sciences sector as a result of MedCity will have a major impact on the national economy, from business supply chain linkages to increased export earnings. MedCity will also collaborate with other parts of the UK to build national strength and global competitiveness. An in-principle cooperation agreement is already in place with Cardiff’s new life sciences hub and the Northern Health Sciences Alliance.

Kit Malthouse, Deputy Mayor for Business and Enterprise and the originator of the project said: “Between the three cities that make up this golden triangle we have the most powerful scientific discovery engine in the world. Now we have to take these discoveries, inject the power of our financial sector, and turn them into world beating companies and jobs.”

Eliot Forster, Chairman of MedCity, said: “MedCity is a unique enterprise that brings together our outstanding life sciences sector in London and the Greater South East. It will stimulate collaboration across the sector and through this drive economic growth. This is a singular opportunity for this sector to find its rightful place in the world market; to create new companies, new therapies, new investments and to deliver economic and patient benefits”. 

Minister for Universities and Science, David Willetts MP, said: “MedCity has some of the world’s greatest universities, strong partnerships with the NHS, significant Government investment and transport links to Europe and beyond. That puts it in a unique position to lead medical research and encourage life science companies to move to the UK.”

The Mayor launched MedCity earlier today on Imperial College London’s Hammersmith campus. Here, the Mayor visited Imanova Limited, a world-leading centre for imaging sciences whose cutting edge PET scanning research provides a specialist resource to the UK research field. Imanova was formed in 2011 in an innovative alliance between the Medical Research Council, Imperial College London, King’s College London and University College London. It is already working with a number of the world’s leading pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies.

At Imanova, the Mayor demonstrated the use of a novel device based on the Microsoft Kinect camera, which tracked his movements generating a 3D image of the Mayor’s head. This uses Imanova-developed software to track the movements of patients during their PET scan. This is particularly useful for patients who may find it difficult to keep still and ensures an accurate, unblurred brain scan is obtained.

MedCity will also enable collaboration among academic institutions, the NHS, charities and the private sector and, in particular, collaboration with the City to attract more investment and risk capital to the sector. 

In addition, it will provide a strong voice for the life sciences field, championing its strengths but also raising awareness of the factors impeding further growth with national and European governments and regulators. 

MedCity will represent the region at international conferences and operate a “concierge” service navigating the industry for those who want to invest, collaborate and provide up-to-date market insights. It will also establish a physical ‘hub’ to act as a point of focus for MedCity activities.


Professor Dermot Kelleher, Chair of the Imperial College Academic Health Science Centre, said: “London is a world leader in medical research. Our unique combination of great universities and first-class research hospitals, dovetailed with access to a critical mass of entrepreneurial talent and a diverse population, puts the capital at the heart of medical discovery and its application. MedCity will allow us to intensify efforts to turn medical innovations into patient benefits and economic value on a national and international scale.

“This collaboration will lay the foundations for the next generation of medical advances while helping secure the capital’s long-term growth. London is powering ahead to a healthier and wealthier future.”

Professor Sir Robert Lechler, Executive Director of King’s Health Partners said: “MedCity represents a fantastic opportunity to further boost London’s stature as a world class hub for innovation and enterprise in life sciences. We are delighted that the Mayor of London backs our ambition for London to be the world destination for investment in life sciences.

“Academic Health Science Centres like King’s Health Partners drive discoveries from the laboratory into the healthcare system, transforming research into new and better treatments. But in a fast-changing and increasingly competitive global arena, we need to maintain our cutting edge by widening our collaboration with major international commercial partners. The result will be a world-leading NHS, more high-tech jobs and a spur to economic growth.”  

Professor Sir John Tooke, Academic Director, UCLPartners said: “London, together with Oxford and Cambridge, conducts world class biomedical research to rival any cluster in the world.  Our challenge is to promote that capability and secure the industrial engagement and financial support to translate science to benefit UK health and wealth.  Building on a history of increasing collaboration between the Academic Health Science Centres, MedCity provides the vehicle to realize that ambition, ensuring London becomes the premier global hub for the development of novel therapeutics, devices and diagnostics to address medical need.” 

Prof Patrick Maxwell, Regius Professor Physic, University of Cambridge said: “The University of Cambridge, the Cambridge Biomedical Campus and surrounding ecosystem are acknowledged internationally for our world-class record for research and innovation in biomedicine. We are excited by the prospect of working even more effectively with London and Oxford to exploit the full potential of this broad partnership to form the most effective hub in the world.” 

Professor Sir John Bell, Regius Professor of Medicine at Oxford University said: “This new collaboration will help us to build on Oxford University’s unique strengths in medical sciences research and teaching which recently saw the University recognised as number one in the world for medicine. Attracting more life science firms and more investment to Oxfordshire and our regional and national partners can only be good news for UK health science and the economy. We look forward to sharing expertise and knowledge as new initiatives, such as the £21m BioEscalator in Oxford, look to help business ideas in this sector to emerge, start-up, and grow, ensuring that the University’s fundamental and clinical research benefits patients and society.”

Xavier Rolet, CEO London Stock Exchange Group said: “The UK boasts one of the most advanced and innovative biotechnology and pharmaceutical sectors in the world, supported by first class universities and global corporate leaders. Ensuring the future of the next generation of innovators is key, which is why we are delighted to support the launch of MedCity. As we have seen through the phenomenal success of TechCity, bringing together expertise within concentrated hubs helps to fast track the development of  start-up businesses, which form the foundation of the blue chip companies of tomorrow.”

Professor the Lord Ara Darzi, Chair of the London Health Commission* said: “MedCity is an exciting initiative for London and the whole country.  My ambition for the Commission is to help London become the healthiest big city in the world and a successful and thriving life sciences sector is crucial to achieving this aim. During its call for evidence it has been clear to the Commission that with increased investment and collaboration the life sciences in London can make a bigger contribution to London’s economy. The Commission will be working closely with MedCity as it develops its recommendations that I will present to the mayor in the autumn.”

Steve Bates, BioIndustry Association (BIA) Chief Executive Officer said: “Med City will support the life sector by linking the UK’s vibrant innovative bioscience SMEs with London’s financial muscle, world class academic and medical institutions to ensure the UK remains a leading global destination for life sciences. MedCity will help address the funding challenges in the sector and deliver the jobs, growth and new treatments for patients that this exciting sector offers. The BIA and our members look forward to playing an integral role in making Med City a success.”

Kevin Cox, CEO Imanova said: “Imanova is delighted to have hosted the Mayor’s visit today. We are fully behind MedCity as it will position London as the undisputed leader for translational medicine in Europe; increasing inward investment, expanding collaborations and supporting growth. As a leading centre for imaging sciences this will greatly enhance Imanova’s ability to attract business from around the world.” 

Dr Jeremy Farrar, Director of the Wellcome Trust, said: “The South East has long been a global centre for excellence in medical research and technology, and the sector is a major contributor to the success of the UK’s economy. This situation is only going to be enhanced by the opening of the Francis Crick Institute in 2015. We welcome MedCity as a way of fostering collaboration between medical research organisations, not only in London and the South East but nationwide, and we are pleased to be based close to the heart of it.”

Nigel Tipple, Chief Executive of the Oxfordshire Local Enterprise Partnership said: “Oxfordshire is one of the largest biotechnology clusters in Europe, with unique strengths  in business and academia underpinned by pioneering research in areas such as alzheimers and diabetes – both conditions which affect a huge number of people worldwide.  Our active collaboration with London’s MedCity will help the UK’s Life Science ‘golden triangle’ of Oxford, Cambridge and London overtake Massachusetts as the world’s most important life science cluster.”

Grahame Nix, Chief Executive of the Greater Cambridge Greater Peterborough Enterprise Partnership, said: “Our area has a long history of innovation relating to the life sciences sector, and we are always keen to support the continued growth of such companies within our area. We hope that the launch of MedCity will create further opportunities for businesses within our area to foster new commercial links and opportunities for collaborative working with both London and Oxford in the future.”

Professor Sir Mike Rawlins, Chair of the Eastern Academic Health Science Network (EAHSN) said: “Cambridge and the East of England is home to the largest and most successful life sciences cluster outside the United States and our globally renowned Universities and  research institutes provide a platform to build world leading companies.  We know, however, that life science industries compete on a global stage and in order to be as successful internationally as possible we must work with our partners in Oxford and London to give the UK economy the best chance of success.  By working together to create a life sciences “golden triangle” the EAHSN will seek to grow jobs, economic value and bring life changing-science to patients in the eastern region and beyond.”

Steven Harris, Chief Executive Officer of Circassia, said: It is great to see that the Mayor and his team are supporting life sciences in the UK. I believe MedCity is exactly the sort of initiative we need to assist companies developing innovative biomedical science connect with the investor community and bring new treatments to patients. Circassia recently completed the biggest ever biotechnology fundraising at IPO in the UK market thanks to support from new and existing investors. Given that our platform technology was originally developed at Imperial College, London we are immensely proud of our heritage and look forward to continuing to build a leading, UK-based specialty biopharmaceutical company.”

Jo Pisani Head of UK Pharma and Lifesciences Consulting at PWC said: “We believe that the MedCity programme is a critical element to deliver the economic ambition for life sciences in London and the Greater South East; presenting a single international brand to connect customers and investors to the life sciences community.”

Professor Patrick Vallance, President of Pharmaceuticals Research and Development at GSK said: “The UK has an outstanding, world-class science base where great scientific discoveries are made and translated into clinical benefit – that’s why GSK continues to significantly invest in research here.

“MedCity offers the South East a unique opportunity to bring together many of the key sectors including world leading academic and clinical institutions, the NHS,  pharmaceutical, med-tech and  biotech companies  as well as the financial sector and venture capital communities. Enhancing this environment to create a vibrant, exciting ecosystem for biomedical advances is essential if the UK is to retain its position as a global leader and the needs of patients are to be addressed with new treatments. I firmly believe that this venture will enhance health and wealth in the UK.”

Notes to Editors


* The London Health Commission is an independent inquiry established in September 2013 by the Mayor of London. The Commission is chaired by Professor the Lord Darzi and reports directly to the Mayor. The Commission is examining how London’s health and healthcare can be improved for the benefit of the population.

London, Oxford and Cambridge already have one of the biggest collection of life sciences activity on the planet.

  • London and the Greater South East have five of the UK’s six Academic Health Science Centres (Kings, Imperial, UCLP, Oxford and Cambridge).


  •  London is also home to the Cell Therapy Catapult which is supporting industry in developing and understanding the regulatory position for a variety of cell therapies.


  • Leading hospitals at the cutting edge of practical clinical research, such as Moorfields eye hospital.  


  • The capital has seven of the UK’S 11 Biotechnology Resource Centre – aiming to catalyse and promote research in life sciences.  
  • London has 18 of the UK’s 53 Medical Research Council’s.


  • The University of Oxford is ranked first in the world in clinical, pre-clinical and health and has 23 Nobel Prize Winners in medicine and chemistry.


  • The University of Oxford have also developed innovative ways of working in partnership with industry to help improve the process of drug discovery and development such as the formation of the Structural Genomics Consortium (SGC).
  • Oxford is a world-leading centre for research in cancer, diabetes, and immunology and inflammation.


  • Oxfordshire’s significant research facilities have spawned one of the highest concentrations of cryogenic activity in Europe, with companies such as AS Scientific, ICE Oxford, Oxford Instruments, Scientific Magnetics and Thames Cryogenics.


  • Oxfordshire also hosts Siemens Magnet Technology, who manufacture more superconducting magnets for MRI scanners than anywhere else in the world.


  • Cambridge University’s ranked first overall in the most recent University Research Assessment Exercise and came top in 19 research disciplines. The university is first out of the top ten in the international alliance of research universities and first of the 21 leading universities in the League of European Research Universities.


  • The Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Cambridge alone has produced 13 Nobel Laureates.


  • The structure of DNA discovered by James Watson and Francis Crick in Cambridge.


  • Home to the Genome, the Cambridge cluster created twelve $1billion companies and two $10billion companies.  More than a quarter of those working in Cambridge are in knowledge intensive industries – as compared with the national average of 12.3%.


  • AstraZeneca announced in 2013 that it had chosen the Cambridge Biomedical Campus  to build its new £330m global HQ by 2016, employing 2,000 people. AstraZeneca will add to the presence of the MRC Laboratory for Molecular Biology, Cancer Research UK, the Institute of Metabolic Science and the Rosie and Addenbrookes Hospitals at the site.


  • The European Medicines Agency in Canary Wharf, which brings a cluster of expertise to the UK for the scientific evaluation of medicines developed by pharmaceutical companies for use in the European Union.


  • The new EU Unified Patent Court responsible for life sciences and pharmaceuticals will also be here in London building upon our excellent legal base. The will create a one-stop shop for companies wanting to protect their business ideas in Europe and will bring at least £200m to the economy each year. 


  • Firms such as Johnson and Johnson have located their innovation hubs here to access the entrepreneurs and their ideas that will help them develop advanced drugs for patients. More investment will follow.

Recent examples of commercialisation of research in London


  • Imperial College London has developed and refined an imaging sequence that has revolutionised MRI brain scans. The sequence, known as FLAIR (fluid-attenuated inversion recovery), has improved diagnosis and patient management in neuroradiological practices worldwide. FLAIR is now incorporated into all new MRI machines sold globally; the market for these is expected to grow to around £6.2 billion by 2015.


  • Pioneering research from the University College London Division of Surgery and Interventional Sciences has developed a revolutionary new nanocomposite polymer material to create biocompatible human artificial organs. This material has been used in a range of world firsts, including transplants of the trachea, nose, ear and tear duct. Now, it is poised to find application in artificial blood vessels, opening up potentially vast markets worldwide.


  • Outstanding research from St Thomas’ Hospital Refractive Surgery Unit at King’s College London created the Excimer laser technology used by laser eye surgeons to reshape the cornea and restore visual performance. This research underpins the technologies used by Zeiss, Avedro, AMO and Alcon, world leaders in optical technology, and has informed laser eye surgery clinical care guidelines in both the UK and USA.


  • The Institute of Psychiatry at King’s College London has pioneered the use of naloxone – a single injection which can save the life of someone who has accidentally overdosed on heroin. This approach is now being incorporated into clinical care guidelines in the UK, Denmark and Australia.


  • A medical device to prevent deep vein thrombosis, developed by researchers at Queen Mary, University of London, has won two awards at the Innovations in Cardiovascular Interventions (ICI) conference in Tel Aviv.


  • Circassia, a specialty biopharma company spun out of Imperial College, listed on the London Stock Exchange this March valued at £581m – the largest biotech IPO in London’s history. 


  • Spirogen, a pioneer in the development of tumour drug resistance, was sold to Astra Zeneca in October for $200m, with a further payment of $240m on meeting development targets.

Examples of London life sciences breakthroughs

  • Bernard Katz of University College London discovered how synapses – junctions across which nerve cells signal to each other – operate. He won the 1970 Nobel prize for Medicine for his work.


  • Sir Tim Hunt of the Cancer Research UK London Research Institute received the 2001 Nobel Prize for Medicine for his discovery of the mechanism of how cells divide – a discovery fundamental to the life and growth of every single creature on the planet, as well as a vital clue into the mystery of cancer.


  • In February 2013 scientists at St George’s Hospital found that genetically modified tobacco plants can be used to produce safe protective antibodies against the deadly rabies virus.


  • In August 2013, St George’s Dr Tessa Homfray helped to create a “mini-brain” in the lab using stem cells. The research found that stem cells were able to self-assemble into structures resembling developing brain regions, which were able to interact.


  • In March 2014, scientists at University College London said they have found a way to deliver drugs to the back of the eye in simple eye drops. This revolutionary discovery could transform treatment for millions of people suffering from age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and other eye disorders.

MedCity’ Advisory Board 

Kit Malthouse – Deputy Mayor of London for Business and Enterprise

Eliot Forster – Chairman MedCity and CEO of Creabilis

Prof Robert Lechler, CEO King’s AHSC

Sir John Tooke, Vice Provost Health UCL (AHSC)

Professor Dermot Kelleher, Chair of the Imperial College AHSC Joint Executive Group

Sir Paul Nurse, President of the Royal Society and CEO The Crick Institute

Sir William Castell, Chair of the Wellcome Trust

Prof Sir Malcolm Grant, Chair NHS England

Ruth Carnall, External adviser

Prof Sir John Bell, Regius Professor of Medicine at Oxford University

Prof Patrick Maxwell, Prof Regius of Physics, University of Cambridge

Dr Herman Hauser

Prof Patrick Vallance, President, Pharmaceuticals RD, GSK

Prof Alan Barrell, Cambridge medtech entrepreneur

Simon Kerry, Karus Therapeutics, SME and Angel Investor Network (Angels 4 Life Science)

Harpal Kumar, CEO of Cancer Research UK


Please Contact Norval Scott FDI PR Manager at London Partners on 020 7234 5789 or nscott@londonandpartners.com

To contact MedCity, visit www.medcitylondon.com email contact@medcitylondon.com or phone 0207 611 5751.