Following the publication of the Government’s Industrial Strategy White Paper on 27th November (see MAP News Item) the Business Secretary Greg Clark and the Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt have announced a “transformational sector deal” with the life sciences sector.
The deal is aligned to the five foundations set out in the Industrial Strategy: Ideas, People, Infrastructure, Business Environment, and Places and the themes of Sir John Bell’s Life Sciences Industrial Strategy. This is the first phase of an agreed deal which the Government and life science sector have been developing to enhance the attractiveness of the UK. There is emphasis on the strength of the UK science base, its business-friendly environment but there is also acknowledgement that there are areas for improvement including helping small companies to scale up, increasing access to finance and advancing collaboration with the NHS. This deal sets out details of collaboration with more than 25 organisations across the sector including charities and academia. It is envisaged that further agreements will be reached in early 2018 in further phases of the deal.
The deal re-iterates the Government’s commitments to support the sector through:
- increasing investment in Research & Development (R&D)
- strengthening the environment for clinical trials
- establishing the Health Advance Research Programme
- supporting the growth of medicines manufacturing
- improving UK environment for businesses with the potential to scale up
- implementing the Accelerated Access Review
- supporting the development of measures to improve the UK’s health data infrastructure
- delivering on the 12 actions to support and apply research in the NHS
- implementing a regional approach to the life sciences sector
- ensuring a highly-skilled workforce
The Government has already announced that it will raise R&D investment to 2.4 per cent of GDP by 2017, increase R&D tax credits and also to invest £725m in new Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund programmes which will be subject to HM Treasury business case approval. Initial areas for investment from this Fund include up to £210m to enhance the power of health data and technology and £146m to support measures to grow medicines manufacturing. The Government has also previously announced its plan to release over £20bn of patient capital investment to finance growth in innovative business over 10 years. On clinical trials the Government will invest through the National Institute for Health Research in the NHS with new contracts “worth more than £950m” starting over the next five years.
The deal confirms the creation of the Accelerated Access Collaborative to be Chaired by Sir Andrew Witty, which will develop the Accelerated Access Pathway to bring cost-effective breakthrough products to patients as quickly as possible. The Accelerated Access Collaborative will also facilitate bespoke partnerships between the NHS and the life sciences industry to deliver the innovation required to achieve better patient outcomes. The Government also commits to deliver on the 12 actions to support and apply research in the NHS as set out by NHS England in its Consultation Paper on research which was launched on 1st December.
The deal acknowledges the importance of a highly-skilled workforce and confirms that the Government will change immigration rules to enable world-leading scientists and researchers endorsed under the Tier 1 route to apply for settlement after three years.
The deal set out full details of the agreed strategy with details of each investment including:
- The commitment by MSD to establish a state-of-the-art life sciences discovery research facility in London
- Johnson & Johnson collaboration with the University of Oxford on novel clinical trial methodologies in the UK including platform trials, focused on mental health disorders such as depression
- The Medicines Company projects with the University of Oxford to perform a large multinational cardiovascular disease clinical trial and with The Greater Manchester Health and Social Care Partnership to improve the understanding, management and economics of cardiovascular disease
- Significant investments by GSK and AstraZeneca in initiatives to harness advances in genetic research in the development of medicines
The implementation of the deal will be led by an Implementation Board. This will be jointly chaired by Industry and government with a membership made up of relevant policy officials and industry representatives covering the core themes of the deal. The Board will meet quarterly and its first meeting will take place in January 2018 with the membership announced before this date.
It is envisaged that the first wave of projects allocated funding under Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund will start their work in April 2018.
The sector deal has been widely welcomed by stakeholders and a long list of significant industry representatives have issued supportive comments. It will however be important for the life science industry to continue to work to ensure that the Life Science Industrial Strategy is implemented.
Mike Thompson, Chief Executive Officer of the ABPI said: “If we get this right – if the Life Sciences Industrial Strategy is implemented in full – the UK can open itself up to be at the forefront of cutting-edge clinical research. NHS hospitals will reap the benefits of global clinical trials and the financial rewards they bring; doctors can prescribe the latest treatments and patients will get the best standard of care. This ecosystem will deliver for everyone. Next year could be a transformative year for the NHS as we work together to deliver this innovation to underpin a more productive health service”. There will be an annual review of the deal in December 2018 and it is to be hoped that the Implementation Board will have been able to ensure that issues such as Brexit do not have a negative impact on progress.