The Gateway to Europe




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Video title: The Gateway to Europe
Released on: May 12, 2009. © PharmaVentures Ltd
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  • Summary
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One of the many benefits of establishing a company within the United Kingdom, is the vast pool of talent that exists in many academic and industrial clusters around the country. Dr Nigel Whittle of the UK Trade & Investment helps companies from all over the world make the most of the R&D opportunities in the UK, a country which has a strong legacy of research and despite the economic climate is still a popular place for companies to establish their HQ's. He outlines his role in the R&D programme at the UKTI and explains how his team handles the broad spectrum of specialties that they cover, in order to help maximise the UK's potential in science and technology.
Role of Nigel Whittle, as R&D Specialist at UK Trade & Investment.
Fintan Walton:
Hello and welcome to PharmaVentures business review here in Cambridge, Boston. On this show I have Dr Nigel Whittle who is R&D Specialist at the UK Trade & Investment. Welcome to the show.
Nigel Whittle:
Thank you.
Fintan Walton:
Nigel Whittle , you're described as the R&D specialist at UK Trade & Investment, what specifically is your role particularly in relation to pharmaceutical and biotech sector?
Nigel Whittle:
Okay, so I work for a program set up by the UK Trade & Investment about two, three-years as called the R&D program. And the rationale behind this is to try and interest overseas companies in investing in the UK, particularly investing in the R&D capabilities of the UK.
Fintan Walton:
Okay, so your remet is global but targeted to specific companies?
Nigel Whittle:
Yes. We work with a very select number of client companies. The intention is to try and develop a very strong working relationship with these companies so trying to understand what that particular R&D needs and recruitments are both in the short term level but also in very strategic level. So know where they are now, where they are going to the next few years and next five years. I'm trying to find out the areas were the UK's capabilities in research are maximum of their scientific interest.
UK has great strength in research and availability of talent.
Fintan Walton:
So if I was a pharmaceutical company or a biotech company that was on your client list. Why should I want to invest in the UK?
Nigel Whittle:
I think most companies are already aware that UK has great strength in research and UK has a very strong track record in basic research, applied research we probably haven't entered because that's commercializing that research and technology over recent years. But companies are aware of the strengths. What those companies don't necessary know is exactly where the particular possibly niche areas of technology of science might be. So it's my job to try and inform them by telling them where the areas of excellence are. As it could be true for say Japanese companies who may know that Oxford Cambridge are very strong universities but may not know individual professors or may not know how to contact with the particular academics. So it's my job to try and help them facilitate that process.
Fintan Walton:
So one of the characteristics of the UK as you know is we've developed specific clusters you mentioned Cambridge and Oxford as clusters were obviously some of the biotech companies are based but we also have got pharmaceutical clusters around London and so forth. So how important is the established Pharmaceutical industry and biotech industry to an incoming company wanting to invest in the UK?
Nigel Whittle:
Well I think one of the most important things is that it means it's very already available pool of talent available in theUK. The pharmaceutical company the biotechnology industry and it's set up over the UK great strength in the last 10-20 years. We are very established biotechnology industry and that means a lot of very skilled, very qualified research scientists available as a pool of talent to tap into.
The areas of innovations in attracting a company into UK
Fintan Walton:
So when we look at the UK, we look back at the history of innovation that innovation has been in the area of antibodiesand also recently in stem cell research so are these typical areas that would attract a company into the UK?
Nigel Whittle:
Yes and we are certainly very keen to try and promote some of the innovative science the UK is doing but we find those areas of innovations everywhere and I am not I keep talking about say three major areas have been about CNS diseases, neurology, oncology and also general immunologyin these three very broad areas of the research capabilities there are some extremely capable scientist from very good biotechnology companies some extremely good academic groups.
Fintan Walton:
Right and then we you re-met you -- you are described as an R&D specialist is that R&D range within the therapeutic area does it go out into diagnostics, medical devices? So how broad does your specialization become?
Nigel Whittle:
Well we've a small team of people working in the program currently five life science R&D specialists. Between us we cover a very broad range right from agricultural, animal health, right through to protein based therapeutics. My own particular background is on the human therapeutic side protein expression those kind of areas, so that's where I'm strongest and I'm very happy to assist in other areas where I can add some value.
UK Trade & Investment: works as an UK wide organisation and enables one stop approach to clinical trials.
Fintan Walton:
Right and most people be be familiar with the United Kingdom as United Kingdom is made up of the Scotland, Wales and England. So when they come to you and want to talk to you about potential equity investment into the UK, do you operate at basically at the UK level or do you then are able to introduce them to the to the regional bodies like the Welsh Development Agency and so forth?
Nigel Whittle:
What we try and do is provide a very effective tailored response to companies and it is a UK wide organization so a very keen to promote areas of excellence throughout the whole of the UK, those so typical that means I have access to the networks which are the " the regional development agencies that develop administrations in Scotland, Wales and other different regions. I also can tap into the universities and technology transfer networks. So it's my role to awake understanding of the whole breadth of UK science.
Fintan Walton:
Right, now in terms of we look at the " our industry and I'm talking about our industry doing the pharmaceutical and biotech industry specifically has been a global industry, it's you know most most of the companies even some small biotech companies have operations in multiple territories. When it comes to the UK are you are we been successful in attracting companies into the UK from other major areas of innovation like Japan and US. Are we can we describe ourselves as successful in achieving that?
Nigel Whittle:
Yes I think we've been very successful in the past and we'll continue things like draw like investment in, clearly it's fairly difficult economic times at the moment but not the less we saw a very strong interest in overseas companies to try and access some of the extremely good research work being done in the UK. So I think what we are doing work well at the moment.
Fintan Walton:
Okay, so I know your areas in research and development but associated with research and development is the area obviously of development which is clinical development and in terms of that is also manufacturing and so forth. So if a company is going to go into the UK how would you classify not only just the research and developments we typically understand of the drug discovery and development but also its clinical expertise and manufacturing expertise, where does the UK sit in relation to the rest of the world in that respect?
Nigel Whittle:
I think we have very strong clinical abilities and skills again perhaps we had problems in the past probably time taken to recruit patients, the time taken to conduct clinical trials. We are making some very rapid strides and trying to solve some of those problems particularly to the clinical research networks. So I think the implementation of clinical research network to be very helpful and actually enabling companies have a one stop approach within clinical trials. So they can approach the network in a particular therapeutic area and run the clinical trials through that networks which should allow rapid recruitment of patients and therefore whole rapid completion of clinical trials.
UK: the gateway to Europe
Fintan Walton:
And again when we look at the United Kingdom we see it's not just only in isolation it's here part of Europe. So how important is the opportunity for overseas companies outside Europe to consider UK in relation to the rest of the Europe, countries within the European Union?
Nigel Whittle:
Well one of the areas where i promote the UK is as a gateway to Europe, so clearly for many companies a great advantage you come into work in the UK because of the issue about language you know that the English is the language of science so the company work in the UK solves many of the language of barriers. We have very good transport connection with the rest of the Europe as well. So actually UK makes a very good European headquarters for many companies. So many Japanese companies will happily come and locate the their European headquarters in London of UK for that very reason.
How UK trade helps setting up business of all sizes comprising alliances and transactions
Fintan Walton:
I know that you specifically target, specifically specific companies or you have client companies which you've identified. But if I was a big pharma company or even if I was a biotech company is it a advantage to whatever size I am if I you know is it better suited for a large pharmaceutical company or if I was a start up biotech company in the US looking to expand, could I consider the UK?
Nigel Whittle:
Yes certainly, the types of collaboration I try and help set up, help the investor that run setup are all sizes in fact they range from say a simple consultancies right through to new research centers being set up. So we are very happy to try and provide the spoke program, so the company which would come and sets up some perhaps a small scale collaboration in UK we will be very happy to assist with that and actually we appreciate that from the small beginnings great things may appear.
Fintan Walton:
Right so your so your what's important about what you said there is that it is not just simply somebody setting up a business within the UK it also includes alliances and transactions that occur between outside companies, outside the UK and inside UK?
Nigel Whittle:
Absolutely right, yeah.
Fintan Walton:
So that in that you would include licensing agreements, marketing agreements, distribution agreements?
Nigel Whittle:
Yes I mean, I probably wouldn't stray too far in the business development territory because I try and work where I can add maximum value. So I can add value by telling companies where the overall R&D excellence are in the UK, as say this may be very small niche areas and may be very small biotechnology companies. If a company is looking for say a late stage product to in license, I probably can tell many more information they could find out by inter company such as PharmaVentures.
UK Trade & Investment works directly with embassies and consulates
Fintan Walton:
Okay, so but when you you travel around the world and we've bumped into each other many places but from a UKTI or UK Trade & Investment point of view there are offices who are based here in the British Consulate General in Cambridge, Boston. Do people make contact through, through the local British Consulate and Embassies or do they contact you directly?
Nigel Whittle:
Typically I tend to work directly through the Embassies or the Consulates particularly in places like Japan where of course there are issues about some language and networks so I work very closely with my colleagues at the various of Consulates who tend to have the links into the organization already. So typically a Consulate will have a very strong network with the local pharma companies, biotech companies. So I'll be working through them and also to some extent to use my own network.
Fintan Walton:
Right, and as you mentioned yourself all ready you know we're living in interesting times in terms of 2009 and general economy, are you seeing continued interest I mean how things.
Nigel Whittle
R&D Specialist, R&D Programme, UK Trade & Investment
Nigel Whittle has over 20 years experience in the biotechnology industry, in a range of scientific, commercial and managerial roles. He graduated from Christ Church, Oxford University with a degree in Biochemistry, and went on to complete a PhD in groundbreaking cancer research at the Cancer Research UK Laboratories in London. After a short spell at Genentech Inc> in the US, he joined Celltech as a founder member of the antibody engineering group, and was later recruited by Cantab Pharmaceuticals (Cambridge, UK) to head the Molecular Immunology Group, developing novel antibodies, immunomodulators and therapeutic vaccines. Later, as VP of Project Management, he was responsible for overall company project development, taking a number of products into Phase I and II Clinical Trials. After helping to implement the successful merger with Xenova, Nigel Whittle left to study for an MBA at the Judge Business School at Cambridge University>. Subsequently he joined PA Consulting Group, where he worked with a range of companies, from small biotechs to large international pharma companies, to provide business support for licensing, product valuation, due diligence and strategy development. He was recruited by the IPGroup to drive the programme of technology commercialization from Kings College London. He represented IPGroup on the Boards of three life-science start-ups, including Proximagen Neurosciences, which he helped to float on the AIM in March 2005, raising over 13 million to progress its development programme. He was subsequently retained by the company as an independent Non-Executive Director. After leaving IPGroup Nigel accepted a position within the DTI as an International Technology Promoter to identify and facilitate the transfer of innovative technology and knowledge into UK companies from Australia. This led to a number of significant partnerships in diverse sectors including regenerative medicine, oncology, noveldiagnostics and industrial biotechnology. He is now employed within the UKTI R&D Programme to facilitate collaborations between established overseas pharmaceutical companies and R&D organizations in the UK. He works with a portfolio of companies in the USA, Japan and India, and has been instrumental in brokering deals and procuring investments worth several million pounds.
UK Trade & Investment
UK Trade & Investment is an international organization with London and Glasgow headquarters. Across our network they employ around 2,500 staff and advisers, including those overseas (in UK embassies, high commissions, consulates and trade offices). In total, there are over 150 UK Trade & Investment overseas offices in around 100 markets. They also have a number of local offices throughout the nine English regions and Devolved Administrations of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. UK Trade & Investment brings together the work of the Foreign & Commonwealth Office and the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform. It draws staff and administration funding from both parent departments, but has its own stream of programme funding, for which the Chief Executive is directly responsible as accounting officer.