LONDON _ Biotechnology and medical research were winners inthis year's allocation of money for government-funded research inthe U.K.

David Hunt, Cabinet Minister for Science, announced last week thathe has earmarked 67 million ($105 million), 5 percent of the totalscience budget of 1281.7 million ($2005 million), "to increaseinteraction with industry, enhance basic strategic science, andimprove people related programs." The government reports that thescience budget is about 2.5 percent higher than last year's budget.

Of the earmarked funds, 9 million ($14 million) will go to"emerging areas such as the genetic make-up of man, animals andplants, immunology and obtaining wealth creating products fromplants." Much of this extra money will go to the Biotechnology andBiological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) and the MedicalResearch Council (MRC). The councils support researchers inuniversities and at their own research institutions.

This year the MRC's budget will be 277.8 million ($434 million),an increase of 8.5 million ($13.3 million). The BBSRC's budgetrises by 4.5 million ($7 million) to 161.6 million ($253 million).

The report detailing the allocation of the extra funds indicated that anextra 4 million ($6.25 million) will go into genome research, with3.5 million ($5.5 million) allocated to the MRC and 0.5 million tothe BBSRC. When combined with the funding allocated last year theincrease amounts to over 12 million ($18.8 million) in a full year.

The report also states that the government has allocated and extra2.5 million ($3.9 million) to research in immunology. This willallow the two research councils to cover their contribution of thecosts of the recently launched Edward Jenner Institute in London.(For information on the Jenner Institute, see BioWorld Today, Dec.9, 1994, p. 1.)

The new budget also includes 2 million (for a full year) for theBBSRC to put into "bioprocessing innovation." The report describesthe bioprocessing industry as "one of the U.K.'s leadingmanufacturing sectors. Underpinning engineering and scientificresearch is needed now to provide the base on which industry canbuilt to maintain its competitive advantage." In this sector thegovernment highlights the development of improved in vitro tests toreduce reliance on animals testing as well as "improvements inquality and efficiency in brewing."

The final area highlighted by the government for special treatment is"wealth-creating products from plants." The BBSRC will receive 1million (2 million in a full year) to supplement its researchprograms in this area. Here the aim is to fund research into the use ofcrop plants to grow industrial products such as "fine chemicals,polymers, vaccines, biopharmaceuticals, designer oils and modifiedstarches."

Tom Blundell, chief executive of the BBSRC, said after thegovernment announced the budget allocation: "This is the age of thebiorevolution; it is right that the U.K. should invest further inresearch into biological systems where we are strong and where ourindustries, in pharmaceuticals, food, agriculture and otherbiotechnologies are competitive." n

-- Michael Kenward Special To BioWorld Today

(c) 1997 American Health Consultants. All rights reserved.