New report reveals strength of the UK’s thriving genomics sector

The BioIndustry Association (BIA), the Wellcome Sanger Institute and Medicines Discovery Catapult (MDC) have today launched Genomics Nation, showcasing the strength, breadth and opportunity of the UK’s genomics sector for investors, patients and the UK economy.

Genomics has a wide range of applications, from the monitoring of the spread and evolution of COVID-19, to the development of new diagnostic tools and therapeutics which promise to transform patients’ lives and drive economic growth.

The UK genomics sector is at the forefront of these technologies and its growth is driven by a thriving community of entrepreneurs, scaling SMEs, global companies and an active investor base. The sector is supported by academic excellence at scale, research institutes, the NHS, government support, and unique data resources such as the UK Biobank and Genomics England.

The report shows the shape and size of the UK’s genomics sector, describes the foundations that are key to its success, and outlines the tremendous opportunity that the sector represents for the wealth and health of the UK.

Key findings:

  • The UK genomics sector consists of 154 companies, employing over 5000 highly skilled people and with a market of over £5bn
  • 72% of UK genomics companies are based in the East of England, London and the South East, although Northern Ireland has the single highest number of employees in the genomics sector due to the presence of Randox which employs an estimated 1,400 people
  • UK genomics companies are disproportionately successful at attracting investment, raising 34% of the total investment in the wider UK life sciences sector while only accounting for 20% of the equity-backed companies
  • Companies using genomics to develop therapeutics have raised £1.2bn in private capital since 2011, significantly more than the other genomic subsectors
  • Orchard Therapeutics, Freeline Therapeutics and MeiraGTx represent the top three IPOs in the sector, with a total £1.7bn market cap at the time of IPO

Steve Bates OBE, CEO of the BIA, said: “The UK’s genomics sector carries a rich legacy. Just as Franklin, Crick and Watson made possible great medical and scientific progress by elucidating the DNA double helix structure in 1953, today UK start-ups and SMEs are leading the world in the genomic revolution.

“The sector is actively backed by the Government through its Life Sciences Vision and Genome UK, and global investors are waking up to the tremendous opportunity that UK genomics represents. These increased investment flows into the sector promise to unlock a new era of genomic innovation which will transform patients’ lives and drive economic growth.”

Adrian Ibrahim, Head of Technology Transfer and Business Development at the Wellcome Sanger Institute, said: “Innovation is in the UK’s DNA and DNA is enabling a new wave of UK innovation.  Our ingenious approaches to interpreting and manipulating the 6 billion letters of the human genome are creating new high tech and high growth businesses that have the potential to become world leaders in their respective fields and deliver on the promise of genomic medicine. 

"We are exploiting genomes beyond our own including through application of microbiome technologies and opportunities beyond healthcare. This report highlights the amazing growth and maturation of the UK’s genomics sector.  In leveraging our unique infrastructure, expertise and culture the UK is becoming an increasingly dominant force in this market, which has the opportunity to impact billions of lives."

Professor Chris Molloy, CEO of MDC, said: “The UK has led the world in the application and innovation of genomics for over 70 years. This report looks at today’s companies and their future delivery of precision medicine; with the potential not only to diagnose and treat illnesses, but predict them.

“The UK is fertile ground for investors from home and abroad to add additional expertise and capital into an ever-growing industry.

“MDC is a key technology player in this Genomics Nation, and is delighted to have partnered with the BIA and the Sanger Institute to develop the report.”

Lord Prior, Chair of NHS England, said:

"Genomic technologies have the power to transform patients’ lives by providing early diagnosis and personalised treatments, and even preventing ill health from developing in the first place. The NHS is introducing the world’s first Genomics Medicine Service to make these cutting-edge technologies, many of which are being developed by innovative companies right here in the UK, part of the routine NHS standard of care. By working together to harness the power of the UK genomics ecosystem, we can continually improve how we fight disease for the benefit of NHS patients."


Notes to editors

  1. The report, Genomics Nation, can be found here.
  2. For further information about the BIA's work in Genomics, please follow this link
  3. The BIA, the Wellcome Sanger Institute and the MDC identified UK genomics companies through three key criteria: they are headquartered in the UK; develop or deliver clinically accredited products and services; and genomics is a core aspect of their business. After identifying the companies, Beauhurst, a searchable database of the UK's high-growth companies, was commissioned to analyse the dataset presented this in report. 
  4. About the BIA

Established over 25 years ago at the infancy of biotechnology, the BioIndustry Association (BIA) is the trade association for innovative life sciences in the UK. Our goal is to secure the UK's position as a global hub and as the best location for innovative research and commercialisation, enabling our world-leading research base to deliver healthcare solutions that can truly make a difference to people's lives. Our members include:

  • Start-ups, biotechnology and innovative life science companies
  • Pharmaceutical and technological companies
  • Universities, research centres, tech transfer offices, incubators and accelerators
  • A wide range of life science service providers: investors, lawyers, IP consultants, IR agencies

5. About the Wellcome Sanger Institute

The Wellcome Sanger Institute is a world leading genomics research centre. We undertake large-scale research that forms the foundations of knowledge in biology and medicine. We are open and collaborative; our data, results, tools and technologies are shared across the globe to advance science. Our ambition is vast – we take on projects that are not possible anywhere else. We use the power of genome sequencing to understand and harness the information in DNA. Funded by Wellcome, we have the freedom and support to push the boundaries of genomics. Our findings are used to improve health and to understand life on Earth.

In the last 15 years, Sanger’s science has given birth to successful, market leading companies such as Kymab, Congenica and Microbiotica


6.About MDC

Medicines Discovery Catapult (MDC) is focused on reshaping the UK’s medicines discovery industry. Part of a network of Catapults established by Innovate UK, MDC is an independent, not-for-profit organisation. MDC’s not-for-profit status enables a risk-taking mindset that allows a focus on pioneering the next generation of medicines discovery approaches and technologies. We can take risks and pursue objectives that are understandably challenging for commercial, for-profit companies.