LONDON - The U.K. government has launched a two-year program, Manufacturing for Biotechnology, to encourage development of a strong manufacturing base in the industry.

The program aims to ensure that companies move seamlessly from the R&D phase of their development through to commercialization.

The U.K. industry minister, John Battle, said some companies that have invested heavily in developing compounds will falter when it comes to manufacturing them.

“Current low levels of awareness could leave companies vulnerable in a number of fast-moving areas such as regulatory compliance, cost containment and new manufacturing techniques,“ Battle said.

“The U.K.'s current European lead in biotechnology is built upon scientific and technological excellence. I want to see that lead sustained and extended by building a strong U.K. manufacturing base in biotechnology,“ Battle added, in disclosing the program.

The U.K. has about 250 biotechnology companies, more than a quarter of the European total. Over the next few years their first products are expected to reach the market.

“The challenge facing these companies is how to maximize the benefits of years spent in the R&D phase of their evolution and prepare the ground for the U.K. to develop a presence in the market for biotechnology manufacturing,“ Battle observed.

The government program will include training grants, information networks to provide specialist technical advice, help for small companies to assess contract manufacturers, and promotion of research in bioprocessing. - Nuala Moran