Vision for UK life sciences 2025: health and wealth

Lucia von Bredow

29 April 2015

The UK Bioindustry Association (BIA) has set out a ten-year vision of its ambitions for the national life sciences sector.

Ambitions for global prominence

The BIA is a trade association for bioscience enterprises that aims to make the UK a global hub for innovative research and commercialisation of healthcare solutions. A new BIA report, A vision for the life sciences sector in 2025, sets out their ambitions for the UK by 2025 to be:

  • Delivering global health benefits to humanity
  • Distinct and differentiated thanks to unique health assets and science capability
  • Building a thriving commercial innovation pyramid
  • Building, attracting and retaining global management talent
  • Europe’s clear leading biotech hub and within the top three globally

The proposition is that these ambitions can be realised by building on existing strengths to create a leading international biotech cluster. The report says that measures of success in achieving a ‘thriving commercial innovation pyramid’ will be demonstrated by at least three top ten pharma companies having their global headquarters in the UK (as per Astra Zeneca’s decision to site their new HQ in Cambridge), and all top ten pharma having active Business Development offices in the UK. A healthy pipeline of innovative start-up companies and robust mid-size companies and an appropriate support services sector to serve the cluster are also considered important.

The rewards of winning the global race

Benchmarking their ambitions against existing US biotech clusters in Massachusetts and California, the BIA concludes that the likely outcomes of success would include a four-fold increase in the number of new drugs and other biomedical innovations moving into clinical practice, as well as attracting £2.6 billion more private investment plus many more companies and skilled jobs, not to mention the corresponding tax revenues.

BIA chief executive Steve Bates commented: “The UK truly has the potential to be a world leader in biotech, a key part of the economy of the future. We need to match world class financing and company growth capacities to our world class capabilities in science”.

The report observes that health innovation is a global race, requiring strategic focus on ‘the unmet needs that our research base is uniquely well placed to solve for the world’ and a greater emphasis on patient benefit.

Other themes identified in the report include the need to encourage innovation from the academic and clinical sectors, and for industry to work more closely with the NHS particularly as a unique source of and partner to innovation. At present the NHS is said to be (in general) a barrier to innovation, and in need of engagement to understand the potential financial benefits of innovation – notably the revenue stream to be derived from ‘data assets’ – and the need to improve uptake of innovations to speed up delivery of benefits to patients.

Forwarding health and wealth for UK patients

The potential to generate revenue from the NHS is already an acknowledged political priority. NHS-owned company Genomics England is charged with creating a ‘lasting legacy for patients, the NHS and the UK economy’ from the 100,000 Genomes Project, and the creation of the post of Life Sciences Minister sitting between the Department of Health and the Department of Business, Skills and Innovation last year is significant.

However, the track record in delivering prompt benefits for NHS patients from innovations is far from optimal; the Innovative Medicines and MedTech Review announced by Life Sciences Minister George Freeman is intended to address this gap – but whether it will prove possible for government funders and regulators, the health service and the academic and commercial sectors to work together to create holistic approaches to implementation that will genuinely deliver for patients, as advocated by the PHG Foundation, remains to be seen. Certainly, enduring solutions will require co-operation across all the different stakeholders in life sciences and healthcare applications.

The PHG Foundation is providing the secretariat for a planned new All-party Parliamentary Group on Bioscience & Technology in Healthcare – a platform for politicians to explore how to prepare health systems to make the most of scientific innovations for patient benefit, to be launched following t he General Election next month.

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