Home Money Look around you Mr Hunt, we already have a ‘British Google’, says MAGGIE PAGANO

Look around you Mr Hunt, we already have a ‘British Google’, says MAGGIE PAGANO

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Tech boost: Chancellor Jeremy Hunt insists a 'British Google' should be the poster child for our industrial success

Jeremy Hunt is dead wrong when he keeps insisting that a ‘British Google’ should be the poster child for our industrial success and why the UK should be the world’s next Silicon Valley.

The Chancellor said it again at the Dorneywood summit he hosted last week in a bid to attract – and maintain – more listings on the London Stock Exchange, as well as boosting our capital markets.

‘I would like to see a British Alphabet, I would like to see a British Microsoft… a local company with a billion dollar cap. That would reflect my ambition for the UK to be the world’s next Silicon Valley,” he revealed.

Hunt is wrong because we have a Google-like equivalent right under our noses: it’s called AstraZeneca.

It may not be a sexy high-tech creature, but it is one of the most innovative and high-tech beasts in the world of life sciences, and one of the most pioneering in terms of saving lives.

Tech boost: Chancellor Jeremy Hunt insists a ‘British Google’ should be the poster child for our industrial success

What’s more, AZ’s global research headquarters is located at the thriving Cambridge Biomedical Campus on the outskirts of the city – the UK’s Silicon Fen and one of the world’s leading bioscience hotspots.

It’s true that the pharmaceutical giant may be a little shy of becoming a trillion-dollar company (worth £192bn), but it needs to be given time. We may still get it if AZ’s ambitious chief executive Sir Pascal Soriot has his way.

Its ultimate goal is to increase total revenue from just £36bn in 2023 to more than £60bn in 2030.

Soriot hopes to achieve his lofty ambition because AZ has another 20 new drugs in the pipeline, and many of them have the potential to reach around £5bn each in annual sales.

What is even more exciting is that AZ’s latest generation of medicines are revolutionary, in the precise sense of the word, in the fields of oncology, biopharmaceuticals and rare diseases.

Work is also underway on medications for diabetes and metabolic diseases. And AZ is involved in the war against weight.

It recently partnered with Shanghai-based pharmaceutical group Eccogene for a cardiometabolic and weight-loss drug, taking on the biggest weight-loss giant, Novo Nordisk, with its surprising drugs Wegovy and Ozempic.

But it is the next generation of cancer treatments that is AZ’s holy grail.

Speaking to CNBC yesterday in Cambridge, Dr. Aradhana Sarin, its chief financial and medical officer by training, explained that the most advanced of the new medicines are antibody-drug conjugates (ADCs) intended to replace classic treatments such as chemotherapy and radiation.

They are very complex and work by delivering powerful anti-cancer agents directly to cancer cells.

They are also very complex to manufacture and require end-to-end production, which is why AZ is investing £1.2bn in a new manufacturing facility in Singapore specifically for ADC.

The impressive CFO believes that these new drugs will eventually replace chemotherapy, which often has unpleasant side effects for patients. But this will be more evolutionary than immediate. Fortunately, AZ is ahead of the curve in that cycle.

Soriot may even achieve its ambitious goal: it has done it before, tripling the share price in the last decade. You have other new places to explore.

The big question is whether they could be in the UK, as AZ has already changed its plans for a mega-new plant from Britain to Ireland due to high corporate taxes and regulatory hurdles over clinical trials.

Forget Google, Mr. Hunt. Hop on the train to Cambridge (it’s only an hour from London) and listen to the scientists. It’s not just the value of companies like AZ that matters, but also the value of what they do to save lives and the prosperity they bring to surrounding communities.


Someone who listens to the background music is Susan Davy, head of Pennon and mother of South West Water, along with Bournemouth and Bristol Water.

The water supply in their districts has been contaminated with dangerous parasites, but normal service has returned to normal for most customers.

Davy is paying around £3.5 million in compensation to customers affected by the outbreak.

It has also cut dividend payments to shareholders to reflect fines for other incidents.

Even so, the payout will rise to 44.37 pence per share, at a total cost of £127m.

That was a mistake. She should have kept hermetic.

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