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by GK Strategy 26th June, 2018
3 min read

Making the Life Sciences Industrial Strategy A Success

GK Strategy was pleased to host Lord Henley, Parliamentary-under-Secretary of State at the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), and Louisa Elias-Evans, from the Office for Life Sciences (OLS), to discuss the Government’s plans to make the Life Sciences Industrial Strategy a success.

The roundtable discussion explored the progress of the Life Sciences Sector Deal and looked ahead to how other recommendations and themes contained within the industry-led Life Sciences Industrial Strategy could become a reality. A broad spectrum of organisations contributed to the event, including companies specialising in pharmaceuticals, diagnostics, imaging, clinical trial development, data and tech support, as well as representatives from charities and membership bodies who support research and staff in the sector.

PROGRESSION OF THE LIFE SCIENCES SECTOR DEAL & INDUSTRIAL STRATEGY

Lord Henley began by reiterating that the objectives of the Government are to continue to build on the strengths of the life sciences sector and to ensure that the wider corporate environment enables the UK to remain as a world leader in R&D and medical innovation. He noted the Prime Minister’s personal commitment to supporting the growth of the AI sector in the UK.

The Government has underlined this commitment through the publication of the Life Sciences Sector Deal – the first published for any sector.  Lord Henley said that the deal will help ensure new pioneering treatments and medical technologies are produced in the UK – this will both improve patient outcomes and drive economic growth. The deal involves substantial investment from private and charitable sectors and significant commitments in research and development from the government. Collaboration is the key to ensuring a thriving Life Sciences environment post leaving the EU.

He continued to outline some elements of what the Sector Deal aims to achieve, including greater investment into digital pathology and AI that will speed up diagnosis of conditions ranging from cancer to neurology. Lord Henley also highlighted the Government’s £90m investment in SME biotech companies, the great strides being made in genome sequencing via the 100,000 genomes project and the pioneering Accelerated Access Pathway (under the stewardship of the Accelerated Access Collaborative) that is speeding up new innovations being made available to patients. He also noted that £50m is being made available for investment through the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund.

An illustration of how the Government is prioritising the sector is the recent establishment of the Life Sciences Council that will provide strategic oversight over the delivery of the Sector Deal. The Life Sciences Industrial Strategy Implementation Board – chaired by Sir John Bell and Lord Henley – will report to the Council on the implementation process and is tasked with shaping the next phase of the Industrial Strategy. Specific areas of focus for BEIS and the OLS include improving the clinical trials environment, developing new regulatory processes that support new technologies, having more of a focus on MedTech, developing place-based approaches and fostering the development of new diagnostic tools.

GROUP DISCUSSION

Lord Henley echoed Professor Stephen Hawking’s famous assessment that mankind’s greatest achievements have come through discussion and collaboration and that failures usually stem from a lack of communication. With this in mind, he encouraged attendees to enter the discussion.

The format of the event provided the ideal platform for attendees to seek clarity from BEIS and the OLS, give their feedback on the implementation of the Sector Deal and the Industrial Strategy and share information on their activity in 2018. Some of the key themes explored during the group discussion included:

  • Maximising the use of NHS patient data in an ethical way. A suggestion for the next Life Sciences Sector Deal is to devise a strategy how to foster partnerships between government, industry and charities to harness patient data more effectively.
  • Organisations within the sector that have felt overlooked during this process, including: patient groups and charities, academic and research institutions, and start-ups that are concerned about access to funding following Brexit.
  • Concerns were raised about a perceived lack of appreciation from BEIS and the OLS for the day-to-day influencers for companies at the “ground level”. For instance, competing European countries are offering generous incentives for life science companies to relocate or conduct studies.
  • A significant focus – from the Department for International Trade and the OLS – has been on encouraging inward investment into the UK. There has not been a similar focus on encouraging British companies to export however, and therefore some UK businesses feel their priorities have been overlooked.
  • The lack of alignment between NHS England and the objectives of the Industrial Strategy. A range of examples were provided including: Perverse disincentives to conducting ultra-orphan clinical trials, a reluctance to implement localised studies and a wider lack of understanding of how the uptake of new technologies influences global investment and research decisions.
  • Disease and technology-specific anomalies that require greater flexibility around patenting and intellectual property.  Solutions were suggested that would foster the development of new treatments in niche areas, transfer ownership of IP more easily – and this would generate income for the Government via taxes in the long-term.
  • The NHS’ 10-year funding settlement recently announced by the Prime Minister is welcome, however industry is calling for the Department of Health and Social Care – supported by the OLS and BEIS – to develop a strategic plan for the funds. Otherwise the funding could easily be used to plug gaps in the short term whilst neglecting new models of care, transformation and reform.
  • The merits of a place strategy within the UK. Attendees explored the pre-eminence of the golden triangle, how clusters and hubs can be encouraged in other parts of England and the role of the devolved nations. The OLS confirmed that their door is always open for industry to discuss place-based strategy.
  • Making it easier for multi-national companies to understand the process and requirements of investing in the UK life sciences sector via a “one-stop shop” facility.

For further information please contact Joe Cormack at joecormack@gkstrategy.com or on 020 7340 1150.

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