LONDON—For the past 10 years Britain’s Medical Research Council (MRC) has fostered efforts to speed up the transfer of key inventions from academia to industry. Already hard at work on a new collaborative center to open next spring, MRC officials last month were pleased to learn that one of their most promising offspring is ready to grow up.

Celitech, founded in 1980 largely with government money, has become the country’s leading inde pendent biotechnology company. The key to Celltech’s growth has been an agreement with the MRC that gave it first option on any invention with commercial potential. That agreement was modified three years later to give Ceiltech first refusal on any developments within MRC laboratories involving monoclonal antibodies and mammalian cell culture.

In the year ending September 30 Celltech made a small profit—its first ever—on sales of nearly $17 million. And last month it made a flurry of announcements...

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