Through the Brexit deal struck between the UK and EU on 24 December, the UK will be part of Horizon Europe, the EU’s next framework program for research and innovation. Horizon Europe will run from 2021 to 2027 with a proposed budget of €95.5B ($114.4B). EU research programs are open for researchers, micro-enterprises, small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), and non-profit organisations. They promote collaborative innovation to drive growth and competitiveness across Europe. The UK-EU trade deal will give UK researchers and businesses access to Horizon Europe funding on equivalent terms as EU counterparts, including eligibility to lead projects. However, the UK will be excluded from the new European Innovation Council Accelerator fund, which was specifically set up to provide equity investments to start-ups, university spin-offs, and SMEs. Horizon Europe will focus on oncology, as the EU has defined fighting cancer as one of five missions to be tackled through this program, with the aim to reduce the significant cancer burden across Europe.
The UK’s participation in Horizon 2020 (H2020), the 2014–2020 research and innovation framework, remains unchanged. This will allow UK firms to continue to participate and receive funding for the full duration of individual projects. According to GlobalData’s Pharma Intelligence Center News database, several UK-based researchers and Bio/Pharma companies have benefitted from H2020 funding to date for drug R&D (Figure 1).
The European Investment Bank, supported by the InnovFin Infectious Diseases Finance Facility and funded by H2020, lent €24M ($28.8M) to the UK and Austria-based F2G Biotech for the development of novel drugs for life-threatening fungal diseases. The majority of this fund was spent to accelerate the clinical trials of the company’s new, first-in-class, anti-fungal drug, olorofim. TC BioPharm Ltd received €3.96M ($4.7M) to accelerate the development of the first allogeneic gamma delta T cell therapy for cancer, OmnImmune. Stablepharma Ltd received €50,000 ($59,900) to further develop its StablevaX technology, which can thermally stabilise and deliver a wide range of vaccines without requiring refrigeration. A University College London-led project received almost €6M ($7.2M) to advance the development of gene therapy for Batten disease. A University of Oxford-led project received €20M ($24M) to progress a malaria vaccine.
A significant amount of H2020 funding has helped several UK Bio/Pharma companies advance their innovative technologies towards clinical trials. As such, the UK’s continued participation in the EU’s research framework programs, which provide access to funding, networks, and collaborations, will be instrumental in propelling further growth and innovation in the sector in the coming years and will help advance innovative technologies towards commercialisation.