BioWorld International Correspondent

LONDON - It has been a record year for the growth of biotechnology in London, with more than 20 new companies founded in 2002, bringing the total number in the capital to more than 90.

Those numbers were to be delivered here today by Simon Tarpey, director of the London Biotechnology Network (LBN), to the 700 delegates of the Genesis Conference.

"London is now increasingly recognized as the third point of the golden biotech triangle, with Oxford and Cambridge," Tarpey said.

That represents a growth rate of 80 percent since the LBN was set up in June 2000 to halt the exodus of biotechnology companies from London by coordinating the development of laboratory facilities suitable for start-ups. Speaking in advance of today's conference, Tarpey told BioWorld International, "We have succeeded in drawing attention to the issue of affordable accommodation for young biotechs in London, but there is still lots and lots to do."

LBN's biggest achievement was the formation of the London Bioscience Innovation Centre at the Royal Veterinary College in London. A second project initiated by LBN at Hammersmith Hospital in west London is due to open in 2005, while five other projects are under development.

The majority of the small biotechnology companies in London are spinouts from the medical schools and universities. Traditionally, they have been forced to move out of the capital because of the shortage, and high cost, of suitable laboratory and office space. Tarpey said, "I believe we have succeeded in changing the mentality that says companies must move out of London as they grow. In fact, we are getting an increasing number of inquiries from companies outside London that want to move here."

Apart from staying close to academic collaborators, London has several other attractions: spending on biotechnology-related research in London is around £300 million per annum; 60 percent of all clinical trials in Europe are carried out in the UK, with London being the major center; and the city has the greatest concentration of medical research institutes and teaching hospitals in Europe.

Tarpey commented, "When [LBN] started out there was nothing for small companies; now London is on the map. We are not up there with Cambridge and Oxford yet, but at least we have raised the profile."