Over the last ten years, the pharmaceutical industry in the UK has undergone significant changes, according to a survey conducted by the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry of 55 companies from the biotechnology, pharmaceuticals, academic and CRO industries. The survey results indicate that the biopharmaceutical industry accounts for the largest R&D investments in the UK, with £4 billion ($4.9 billion) in R&D expenditure in 2013, and an approximately 20% contribution of business R&D in 2014. Over 60% of large pharmaceutical companies (i.e., 250 or more employees) have increased outsourcing and collaborations within the last decade, including increasing collaboration with CROs and academic drug discovery institutes. There has been a notable decrease in drug discovery staffing at large pharmaceutical companies, with 57% of large companies decreasing drug discovery staffing by over 25%; in contrast, 50% of medium companies (i.e., 50–249 employees) have increased their drug discovery staff by over 25%. Drug discovery employees at CROs have also been steadily increasing for the past five years, with 28% of CROs increasing their drug discovery staff by over 25%. There has been a general trend of drug discovery R&D and staffing being assigned to CROs and academia, while large pharmaceutical companies concentrate on IP generation, preferring to collaborate or outsource for other operations.

Though drug discovery staffing may have decreased in large companies, investment in drug discovery has increased within the last decade. Investments have mostly increased internationally, with 40% of large pharmaceutical companies increasing outsourced investment by over 25%. In house, 73% of companies’ R&D focuses on assay development; 61% on molecular and cellular biology; and 68% on hit-to-lead identification. The most commonly outsourced operations include non-GLP toxicity (52%), non-GLP investigative safety (50%) and medicinal chemistry (48%), while the most common reasons for collaboration include target identification (39%), target validation (36%), and molecular and cellular biology (30%).

Source: Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry

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