Innovate UK prioritizing over 39% of funding to COVID-19 grants demonstrates priority for infectious diseases, says GlobalData

The current COVID-19 pandemic has caused the granting agency Innovate UK to prioritize innovative COVID-19 projects. Infectious disease has become the priority in terms of grant funding for companies, in particular small to mid-size enterprises, says GlobalData, a leading data and analytics company.

Innovate UK invested almost £1.5m ($2m) on innovative pharmaceutical research projects in 2020. Infectious disease had the highest number of grants in 2020 and over £750,000 ($1m) in funding. Over 90% of the infectious disease projects were COVID-19-related. These were early drug discovery projects aiming to identify new treatment options for COVID-19, with an investment by Innovate UK of almost £600,000 ($783). Comparatively, oncology, hematological disorders and genetic disorders received a combined funding of approximately £700,000 ($913).

Keshalini Sabaratnam, Pharma Analyst at GlobalData, comments: “The majority of pharmaceutical research and development (R&D) grants awarded in 2020 were for early drug discovery research rather than drug development, reflecting the focus of investing in early-stage innovation projects and the effects of COVID-19 on research. This particular funding agency is prioritising innovative early discovery research, rather than putting a focus on helping projects, which have already identified a lead compound so lending their support in further development of innovative discovery/preclinical stage assets.”

Across all therapy areas, 30% of the grants were for non-COVID-19 projects, which were funded through the COVID-19 continuity grants competition (May to June 2020). This was launched to help existing Innovate UK grant holders continue their work through the current coronavirus challenge.

Non-COVID-19 funding for further development includes Lunac Therapeutics’ first-in-class small molecule preclinical anticoagulant to help reduce the risk of blood clots without increased risk for bleeding relative to other treatments.

Another non-COVID-19 grant for further development is pHion Therapeutics’ discovery-stage therapeutic mRNA HPV vaccine. HPV vaccinations are crucial as there were an estimated 300,000 diagnosed incident cases of cervical cancer in the sixteen major markets in 2018, and this number is expect to grow to over 315,000 cases by 2028.

Sabaratnam concludes: “This allows funding to continue for other crucial areas of research that might affect other large populations. Granting agencies are also keen to support small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), which are more vulnerable to financial impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, to continue with and complete their existing projects. COVID-19 will remain a priority until a vaccine is available; however, looking beyond the era of COVID-19, government agencies will continue to allocate grant funding for other priority diseases, especially those with heavy disease burden for the UK and the world.”

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