Top Biotech & Pharmaceutical Companies in the UK

Top 15 Biotech & Pharmaceutical Companies in the UK

Sarah Cheesman, 29 November 2023

The UK’s presence in the rapidly expanding life sciences industry is not something that can be understated. Although life sciences companies have been declining in recent years—we can see from our data, there’s 17 fewer life sciences companies now than at the end of 2022—they still managed to secure £402m in funding, in Q3 2023 alone which speaks volumes about their economic impact.

As it stands, the UK boasts the position as Europe’s top biotech hub, particularly when it comes to startup funding in the biotech and pharmaceuticals sectors. These industries also take the lead in academic spinouts, with their rigorous research and testing processes aligning seamlessly with the university commercialisation model.
The role of biotech and pharmaceutical companies became even more pronounced during the battle against COVID-19. The Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine, developed within the UK, was a key example of this. In line with its Life Sciences Vision, the UK Government has plans to further develop this sector, tackling some of the major causes of death and disease.

In this article, we’re delving into the UK’s pharmaceutical and biotech industries, ranking the top 15 based on the amount of equity funding they have secured to date.

What is a biotech company?

Biotechnology companies are at the forefront of innovation, harnessing the power of living organisms, including DNA, to craft a diverse array of products. While their primary sphere of activity lies within the healthcare industry, where they play a pivotal role in the development of life-saving medicines and therapeutic solutions, including gene therapies and vaccines, the scope of their impact extends far beyond this. Biotech firms also venture into the realm of agriculture and environmental sustainability, contributing to the creation of eco-friendly products like biofuels and genetically engineered crops, which address pressing global challenges.

Many biotechnology giants have earned recognition for their groundbreaking work. This includes:

These trailblazers are shaping the future with their transformative and life-enhancing innovations across various fields.

What is a pharmaceutical company?

Pharmaceutical enterprises are renowned for their dedication to the development of medical solutions, primarily through the utilisation of chemicals and synthetic compounds. These companies often distinguish themselves through their substantial size and comprehensive scope, setting them apart from their biotechnology counterparts. Within the pharmaceutical landscape, mammoth corporations such as Novartis and Johnson & Johnson dominate the field, exemplifying the significant scale that big pharma companies operate on.

The core pursuit of pharmaceutical firms revolves around the research, development, and production of pharmaceutical drugs designed to treat an extensive range of medical conditions. This includes everything from over-the-counter remedies to complex prescription medications, catering to the diverse healthcare needs of a global population.

These companies are instrumental in facilitating access to a wide array of therapeutic options, contributing significantly to the improvement of public health. Their vast research and development budgets, coupled with extensive clinical trials, have paved the way for numerous life-changing drugs that have revolutionised the treatment of various diseases. These organisations wield the resources and expertise necessary to navigate the complex regulatory landscape, ensuring that their innovative products reach the market and make a substantial impact on patient care.

Biopharmaceutical companies

Whilst the process by which biotech and pharmaceutical companies develop products differs, there are also several biopharmaceutical companies that use both biotechnology and chemicals in their product development. These include the likes of GSK (GlaxoSmithKline), Johnson & Johnson, Pfizer, AstraZeneca, and Bayer.

Top biotech and pharmaceutical companies in the UK

With 1,129 high-growth life sciences firms currently active in the UK, we track a long list of biotech and pharmaceutical companies innovating within this sector. Below is our ranking of the top 15 UK biotech and pharmaceutical businesses to watch this year, many of which are spinouts from leading UK universities. We’ve listed them in ascending order of the amount of equity investment they’ve raised so far.


Ellipses Pharma

Date founded: 2015
Location: London

Ellipses Pharma is a London-based drug development company, focused on cancer treatments. It looks to acquire innovative cancer assets, with the aim of accelerating their progression through the clinical development process, using new trial designs and regulatory expertise.

The life sciences firm has raised £109m in equity investment so far, across five funding rounds. The majority of these deals were unannounced fundraisings, or stealth rounds, meaning they weren’t disclosed to the press, except for the most recent round in July 2023, where West Coast Capital was a noted investor towards the total £9.75m.



Date founded: 2003
Location: Essex

CellCentric is a biotechnology company that develops cancer therapeutics. These include Inobrodib, which combines the twin proteins p300/CBP that target specific cancer types. CellCentric was founded in 2003, as a spinout from the University of Cambridge, and now has offices in Cambridge, Oxford, and Manchester.

The company has received a total of four Innovate UK grants, worth £2.45m. It has also secured £110m in equity investment, across an impressive 18 funding rounds. 5Y Capital, Avlar Bioventures, Nesta Impact Investments, Takeda Ventures, and UK Innovation & Science Seed Fund are among CellCentric’s most notable investors.


Evox Therapeutics

Date founded: 2016
Location: Oxford

Another spinout from the University of Oxford, Evox Therapeutics uses vesicles (small bodies that consist of cellular membranes) to encase drugs and treat a range of severe diseases. In 2021, the company appeared on its first high-growth list, the BusinessCloud MedTech 50.

Evox Therapeutics has secured £115m in equity investment so far, across three fundraisings, from investors such as GV (Google Ventures), Oxford Science Enterprises, Oxford University Innovation, and Borealis Ventures. Evox Therapeutics has also received innovation grants from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Innovate UK, worth a combined £827k.


Ascend Gene & Cell Therapies

Date founded: 2021
Location: London

Ascend Gene & Cell Therapies is a new entry, having only been founded in 2021. This biotechnology research company has a focus on cell and gene therapy manufacturing, with a mission to create the most effective, highest-quality, scalable gene therapies possible.

To date, they have secured £116m in equity investment across two fundraising rounds. Investors include 4BIO Capital, Abingworth Venture, Ajinomoto, Cathay Health, DCVC Bio, Deerfield Management, Digitalis Ventures, Petrichor, and Monograph Capital.



Date founded: 2019
Location: London

London-based AviadoBio creates gene therapy treatments for neurodegenerative diseases, such as frontotemporal dementia (FTD) and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). The firm’s work is built on research conducted at King’s College London and the UK Dementia Research Institute.

The King’s College London spinout is backed by investors including Advent Life Sciences, Dementia Discovery Fund (DDF), F-Prime Capital Partners, Johnson & Johnson Innovation, and LifeArc. In total, AviadoBio has raised £117m in equity investment, across four funding rounds.



Date founded: 2016
Location: Oxford

Founded in 2016, OMass develops a native mass spectrometry device, which can discover medicines, as well as give insight into how potential therapeutics interact with biological ecosystems. The company is headquartered in Oxford, with additional labs located in Nottingham.

OMass spun-out of the University of Oxford in 2016, and has since gone on to raise £128m in equity investment, across five funding rounds. It also received a £462k grant from Innovate UK. The company’s most notable investors include GV (Google Ventures), Oxford Science Enterprises, Syncona Partners, and Sanofi Ventures.


Date founded: 2016
Location: Cambridge

Through the use of genetically reprogrammed human stem cells, (formerly Elpis Biomed) develops new therapies and research tools. By combining coding and biology, the biotechnology company seeks to unlock a new generation of medicines.

The University of Cambridge spinout has secured £141m in equity investment so far, across six funding rounds. Investors include Foresite Capital, Metaplanet, National Resilience, Puhua Capital, and Tencent. On top of this, has also received two innovation grants, worth £380k in total.


Osler Diagnostics

Date founded: 2016
Location: Oxford

Founded in 2016 and based in Oxford, Osler Diagnostics creates a handheld diagnostic device called the Osler Origin. The medical device (completed this year) can be used to rapidly test several different biomarkers of diseases and illnesses. Once approved, this will enable extensive diagnostic testing at speed.

Osler Diagnostics is yet another University of Oxford spinout in this ranking. The medical diagnostics company has secured six innovation grants already, worth a combined £2.12m, from both Innovate UK and the Defence and Security Accelerate. It has also secured £144m in equity investment, across five funding rounds, from Braavos Investment Advisers, Lansdowne Partners, M&G Investors, Oxford Science Enterprises, and Bio-Rad Laboratories, amongst other investors.



Date founded: 2008
Location: London

Touchlight is a DNA manufacturing company, based in London. It has created a new DNA replication technique, which is applicable to the production of vaccines, as well as other therapies. Touchlight’s rapid growth last year saw it place on the Deloitte Fast 50 ranking for 2021.

Since its founding in 2008, the life sciences company has secured £147m of equity investment, across 11 fundraisings. Backers include Downing, Novator Partners, and Bridford Investments. It also received £14.1m in grants, the most recent of which was awarded in March 2023 through Life Sciences Innovative Manufacturing Fund (LSIMF). They attended the Mayor’s International Business Programme for ambitious businesses looking to expand overseas.


Crescendo Biologics

Date founded: 2007
Location: Cambridge

Crescendo Biologics is a Cambridge-based immuno-oncology company. It develops biotechnology that generates fragmented human antibodies, which can be used to create different medicinal products. Crescendo Biologics is a spinout from the Babraham Institute, a partner organisation of the University of Cambridge focused on life sciences research.

The company was awarded a £138k Innovate UK grant and has secured a further £150m of investment, across 11 equity funding rounds. Its backers include Astellas Venture Management, Avlar Bioventures, IP Group, Sofinnova Partners, Takeda Ventures, and the UK Innovation & Science Seed Fund. In 2020, Crescendo Biologics also ranked on the Pharma Times: Alantra Pharma Fast 50 high-growth list and 1000 Companies to Inspire Britain. They also won ‘Best Established Biotech Company’ at the 2021 OBN awards.



Date founded: 2007
Location: London

Pulmocide is a London-based biopharmaceutical company which develops inhalable medicines that treat respiratory illnesses and infections. Among its developments are a new anti-Aspergillus treatment, opelconazole (PC945), which has the potential to be used for aspergillus, cystic fibrosis, and asthma, as well as COVID-19 associated lung damage.

Pulmocide has secured £171m in equity investment so far, across eight funding rounds. The company’s investors include F-Prime Capital Partners, IP Group, Johnson and Johnson Innovation, SV Health Investors, Touchstone Innovations, and the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation.


Quell Therapeutics

Date founded: 2019
Location: London

Quell Therapeutics is a venture-stage biopharmaceutical company that develops Treg cell therapies for a range of conditions, including solid organ transplant rejection, and different autoimmune and inflammatory diseases. The company was one of the UK’s top-funded spinouts in 2021, and aims to become a world leader in the cell therapy space.

It was spun-out from University College London and King’s College London in 2019, and has since secured £198m in equity funding, across four rounds. Among its investors are Syncona Partners, UCL Technology Fund, Future Fund: Breakthrough, and SV Health Investors, to name a few. They have also received one grant in July 2023, from AstraZeneca to support the development of its T-regulatory (Treg) cell therapies pipeline.



Date founded: 1998
Location: Salford

Founded in Salford, Greater Manchester in 1998, F2G is a world-leading biotech company that creates treatments against life-threatening fungal diseases. Among its creations are orotomides, which are new types of antifungal agents. The University of Manchester spinout now has offices in Austria and the US, in addition to its UK headquarters.

F2G’s backers include 5Y Capital, Advent Life Sciences, Sofinnova Partners, and Novo Holdings. In total, it’s secured £206m in equity investment so far, across 10 rounds. The firm has also been awarded four large innovation grants, totalling £3.33m.


TauRx Pharmaceuticals

Date founded: 2002
Location: Aberdeen

TauRx Pharmaceuticals creates treatments for alzheimer’s, dementia, and other neurodegenerative conditions. The Scottish life sciences company was founded in 2002 and specifically focuses on developing tau aggregation inhibitors (TAIs), to prevent the spread of neurodegenerative diseases.

TauRx Pharmaceuticals has secured £209m in equity investment so far, with the most recent of these being in November 2022 for £101m. This funding was to support a HMTM regulatory submission and prepare to go to market. The pharmaceutical company is also a spinout from the University of Aberdeen.


Artios Pharma

Date founded: 2015
Location: Cambridge

Based at the Babraham Institute in Cambridge, Artios Pharma develops groundbreaking cancer treatments that target DNA Damage Response (DDR) pathways to kill or weaken cancer cells. The company was placed on the BusinessCloud MedTech 50 high-growth list in 2021.

Artios Pharma has secured £245m in equity investment, across five funding rounds. Investors include Arix Bioscience, CRT Pioneer Fund, Pfizer Venture Investments and SV Health Investors. The company’s most recent equity deal, in July 2021, saw it reach a post-money valuation of £242m.

The future of biotech and pharmaceutical companies in the UK

The UK’s biotech and pharmaceutical sector is a testament to the nation’s commitment to scientific innovation and healthcare advancement. In addition to hundreds more across the nation, the companies featured in this article have showcased remarkable dedication to research, development, and the improvement of medical solutions, both locally and on the global stage.

Their contributions are not only vital to the health and well-being of the population but also to the growth of the UK’s economy. As we look to the future, it’s evident that these companies will continue to be the driving force behind groundbreaking discoveries, new treatments, and a brighter, healthier tomorrow.

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