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Address lack of early-stage R&D, medical charities urged

Medical charities must do more to back proof-of-concept research, as a lack of such studies is currently holding back the development innovative therapeutics, a meeting of the Association of Medical Research Charities has heard.

“We start companies too soon and spend too little time de-risking ideas before trying to pass them on to big pharma companies or commercialising them,” said John Bell, professor of medicine at the University of Oxford and chairman of the Office for Strategic Coordination of Health Research, the UK government’s central coordinating body for health research. He was speaking at the AMRC’s annual general meeting, held on 27 November in London.

Bell also noted that after 30 years of developments in biotechnology, the UK has no mid-sized biotech companies. “Despite thousands of small companies having been started, none have grown big enough to pay taxes to the UK,” he said. One challenge, according to Bell, is that small firms cannot attract the sustained funding they need from venture capitalists, who generally want to commit to an investment for no more than five years.

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