The UK Government’s Industrial Strategy Green Paper has named the life sciences as a key strategic sector. Today, the findings of an independent sector-led review into the £64 billion life sciences sector was unveiled, which will inform the basis of UK Government work with the sector towards a sector deal in the coming months. This report comes at a critical time as the UK is defining its post Brexit strategies.
The Life Science Industrial Strategy (LSIS) report to Government lays out a consensus of the opportunity across the life science ecosystem in the UK. Its development was led by Professor Sir John Bell and the Life Sciences Industrial Strategy Board which was established in 2016. The vision and strategy is summarised in the below illustration from the report.
What does the LSIS cover and what does it recommend?
The strategy aspires to put the UK in a world-leading position to take advantage of the medical trends of the next 20 years through the establishment of the Health Advanced Research Programme (HARP). Four areas are identified as potential areas of focus for HARP:
• Genomics in medicine
• Creating a platform for developing effective diagnostics for early, asymptomatic chronic disease
• Digitisation and Artificial Intelligence to transform pathology and imaging
• Healthy Ageing – the commercial opportunity
A coalition of funders approach is proposed to tackle such grand challenges with a strategic goal to create two-three entirely new industries over the next ten years.
The strategy also puts forward recommendations under five key themes:
• Science: reinforce the UK science offer through, for example, improving the UK’s clinical trials base
• Growth: support an environment that encourages companies to start and grow. Key recommendations include tax relief for entrepreneurs and for R&D; optimise the fiscal environment for manufacturing investment
• NHS collaboration: adopt a conditional reimbursement process, and ensure that SMEs can engage effectively with NICE’s funding model for technology evaluation, such that the UK is in the top quartile of comparator countries for speed, adoption and overall uptake of innovative, cost-effective products.
• Data: drive best use of data and digital tools to support research and better patient care by taking forward various actions including creating national registries of therapy-area-specific data across the NHS.
• Skills: support access to a pool of talented people through a strong skills strategy, including strengthening support for entrepreneurial training at all levels.
Given that the therapeutics part of the sector requires an effective regulatory system and, in the context of the UK leaving the EU, an approach that ensures co-operation and partnership between the European Medicines Agency (EMA) and the Medicines and Healthcare Regulatory Agency (MHRA) is highlighted as being in the best interests of patients across the EU and the UK.
Many of the detailed recommendations in the LSIS draw on the Vision for the UK life sciences sector in 2025, published by the BIA, the UK’s trade association for the biosciences, published in 2015.
This LSIS document should energise the conversation between industry and government as to how to invest in order to achieve the ambitious vision required to reap the benefits in the UK of improved health and a strong economy. It is great to see that LSIS demonstrates the vision and ambition for the UK life sciences sector. It challenges entrepreneurs to engage with the opportunities. Reflecting on THIS previous Insight, let’s hope when we look back in 20 years, the title of the book about the sector will read ‘How the UK has succeeded in Biotechnology’.
By Sue Charles, Managing Partner of Healthcare and Life Sciences