This will be the biggest ever cash increase for health research and development. There will also be a big investment in research skills training to support the next generation of science leaders.
The £5 billion investment will be split over the next three years, and it will rise to £2 billion per year by 2024, representing a 57% cash increase since before 2020. The money will go to the Department of Health and Social Care to fund ground-breaking projects, boost innovation and entrench the UK as a science superpower.
The UK led the world in the COVID-19 response, through innovation, collaboration and the use of clinical data and genomic sequencing. For example, the Oxford University and AstraZeneca partnership led to one of the first vaccines being developed and approved. The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency was the first regulator in the world to approve a COVID-19 vaccine, leading to the first patient, Margaret Keenan, to be vaccinated.
The NHS was the place where the re-purposed use for a cheap steroid, dexamethasone, enabled the saving of over a million lives around the world. The UK's leading genomic sequencing rapidly detected new COVID-19 variants. The UK's gamble in funding vaccine development through advanced purchasing agreements contributed to the rapid vaccine development by removing risk and meant that the UK was at the front of the queue when the vaccine was ready.
Since the UK led the way with the 100,000 Genomes Project, it has not looked back. As part of the new package, Genomics England is going to receive additional funding to support new initiatives, such as "Generation Genome" - a national pilot of 100,000 new-borns to use genome sequencing to detect rare diseases. This will help the UK stay ahead of the field in this exciting area and will enable doctors to detect over 200 conditions compared to existing tests which can just identify nine - potentially saving 3,000 babies per year.
The new money will also fund a project to tackle healthcare inequalities by increasing representation of minority groups in genomics research programmes. The "Diverse Data" project is critical to better understand the variations on different populations - this will aim to recruit at least 15% of people from ethnic minority backgrounds to take part in research programmes.
£95 million will be given to the Office for Life Sciences, to increase the uptake of cutting-edge innovations in the NHS and with the target of delivering on the Prime Minister’s healthcare missions on cancer, obesity and mental health.
Sajid Javid, the Health Secretary, has also committed to continue funding research for cutting-edge coronavirus treatments, including £33 million to deploy novel COVID-19 antivirals via a UK-wide trial, prioritising the most vulnerable people first.
In addition, the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) will put £30 million into research skills and training, including targeting under-represented groups to help to increase diversity in the UK’s research and life sciences sector, as well as a major package of measures to explore innovative technologies for diagnosing and detecting dementia.
The 2021 PING Conference, which VWV will be holding on 17 November in collaboration with IQVIA, is entitled "UK Life Sciences Opportunities in a Changed World". The Conference will look at the UK's response to COVID-19 and how there are now tremendous opportunities for Global Britain flowing from this. We will be hearing from leading speakers, including, amongst others:
We will be hearing more about the innovation agenda and the Comprehensive Spending Review from these and the other speakers. Find out more about the PING Conference 2021.