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UK Government Unveils New Vision to Lead Changed World in Life Sciences

on Thursday, 12 August 2021.

The UK Government has unveiled its new Life Sciences Vision to replace and build on the 2017 Life Sciences Industrial Strategy.

The Vision has its foundations on the successes of the UK's life sciences industry, academia and National Health Service in responding to the COVID-19 pandemic, and in a post-Brexit world.

The Four Themes of the Vision

  • To build on new ways of working from COVID-19 to address future disease.
  • To build on the UK’s science and clinical research infrastructure and harness the UK’s unique genomic and health data.
  • For the NHS to test, purchase and spread innovation, with cutting-edge science and innovations being rapidly embedded in the NHS.
  • To enable a business environment in which life sciences businesses have the finance to grow, are regulated in an agile and efficient way, and manufacture and commercialise their products in the UK.

Seven Healthcare Missions

The Vision sees this particularly having an effect in seven areas:

  • Neurodegeneration and dementia.
  • Enabling early diagnosis and immune therapy for cancer.
  • Placing the UK position at the heart of novel vaccine discovery, development, manufacture and use of vaccines.
  • Preventing and treating cardiovascular disease and its major risk factors such as obesity.
  • Reducing mortality and morbidity of respiratory disease.
  • Understanding the reasons behind ageing.
  • Increased understanding of mental health conditions.

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What Stands Out in the Vision?

As with other messages previously, there is a focus in the Vision on the early prevention, diagnosis and treatment of conditions in order to have a sustainable health system. There is also mention of the levelling up, and a move to building on manufacturing capability in the UK regions.

In addition, there is great emphasis placed on existing successes in the UK, such as globally renowned academic institutions, big pharma companies, an impressive array of start-ups, global leading genomics, and access to the National Health Service data.

This builds on previous messages but takes them forward, including wanting to see the UK remain as the leading genomics hub, and to use NHS data for research through a more joined up and simplified system. Enabling trust of all parties, including patients, is key to this.

Other Interesting Messages

  • Encouraging the adoption of medical technologies and digital health including AI within life sciences, so that it is as easy to have access to those as it is to prescribe a medicine.
  • A focus on linking up with the UK's leading financial hub in the City of London, so that impressive start-ups will continue to scale up and remain in the UK rather than look to have an IPO in the US. Also retaining the UK's desire to be a place that has tax incentives for businesses to locate.
  • A real theme around innovation, building on many of the successes of the response to the pandemic, including early adoption of medicines, and innovative pathways including embedding these concepts within the NHS and the UK's medicines regulator, the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA).
  • Innovation is key in many other ways too, such as having a more efficient research environment and breaking away from regulatory alignment with the EU with a more flexible regime around clinical trials.
  • The UK's place in a post-Brexit world as a beacon for free trade, with ambitions for trade deals, the MHRA participating in global programmes, and making it easy for talent to locate in the UK.

Exciting Times for Life Sciences in the UK

There is no doubt that this Vision demonstrates the Government's backing to the industry as a key driver for growth and has high ambitions, and not just to do things as they have been done before. Things have been changing in the sector with exciting opportunities for growth and new ways of tackling disease, and the UK has been at the forefront of that. 

As the Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, said in the foreword to the Vision: "I cannot think of a time when we have been more indebted to the astonishing power of life sciences, so much of it pioneered here in our United Kingdom. From the discovery of dexamethasone to the global reach of the Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine, British genius and ingenuity is saving millions of lives around the world and allowing us to restore our liberties and livelihoods without spreading this lethal disease to our loved ones.

Yet these extraordinary achievements are not merely the product of brilliant science, they have also required a radically different way of supporting it. Driven by an urgency for results and a willingness to take risks, the Vaccine Taskforce used government funding to mobilise private sector investment and inspire a seamless collaboration between our scientists, pharmaceutical companies, regulators, and NHS.

The great opportunity before us now is to learn the lessons of this success and make this exception the new norm, bottling the formula we have developed to tackle COVID and applying it to the search for life-changing breakthroughs against other diseases."

The 2021 PING Conference, which will be held in collaboration with IQVIA, is entitled 'UK Life Sciences Opportunities in a Changed World'. The Conference will look at many of the themes set out in the Vision - how the UK life sciences industry has opportunities to build on its impressive pandemic response. We will be hearing from leading speakers, such as from the Department of Health, MHRA, Government, NHS England, Pfizer, GSK, Oxford University, and others. Find out more about the event.

If you would be interested in hearing more about these issues and being invited to attend the PING Conference, please contact Paul Gershlick in our Pharmaceuticals and Life Sciences team on 07795 570072, or complete the form below.

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