Woodford: Investors failing to exploit UK’s science sector

IVF-Science-Test-Tube-Pharma-Pharmacy.jpg

Investors are failing to turn the UK’s scientific advances into business opportunities because they are not committing money, says Neil Woodford.

Woodford, investment manager at Woodford Investments, said lower growth and a world beset with political and economic challenges meant there was “a lot to be worried about” in the fund management world.

“You have to have a very robust filter to find the interesting and exciting opportunities,” Woodford said, speaking at an event hosted by Jupiter Asset Management.

However, Woodford said he was excited by the work coming out of the UK’s top universities and research institutions, working on early stage companies in the realm of science. He invests in these companies through the Patient Capital investment trust, which has £733m in assets.

The UK is home to four out of the world’s top 10 universities, including Oxford University, which is where Woodford Investments is based.

“There is a rather bright light at the end of this rather difficult tunnel that we are in at the moment,” Woodford stated. “It’s what technology can do to transform our lives for the better.”

“What we’re not doing is turning that great science into great businesses,” Woodford said. “The reason we’re not doing that is because investors like you, like me, are not providing long-term patient capital to these exciting new opportunities. As a result we are failing as an economy to capture this opportunity.”

Woodford named healthcare and energy as “critical” areas investors needed to be looking at.

In a blog post last year, Woodford listed Cell Medica, Circassia, 4D Pharma, ReNeuron, Stratified Medical and Oxford Pharmascience as early stage UK pharmaceutical companies with exciting long-term potential.

He added that Nanopore and Genomics were potential disrupters in the area of genome reading and information.

“We have to as a society recognise the importance of the knowledge economy and get more money behind it,” Woodford said, stating this was essential in order for the UK to “succeed and prosper”.

However, performance at the Patient Capital Trust has lagged, with market volatility leading its share price to trade at a discount earlier this year. The asset manager also delayed the launch of an additional fundraise for the trust amid continued uncertainty and lower liquidity in markets.